AFL 10 months ago

Five Reasons Why The Gold Coast Suns Should Relocate To Tasmania

  • Five Reasons Why The Gold Coast Suns Should Relocate To Tasmania

    LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 26: The Suns look dejected as they leave the field after losing the round 14 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Gold Coast Suns at Aurora Stadium on June 26, 2016 in Launceston, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

It has become one of the hottest points of discussion for so many years. Household names from the AFL have been asking for it, and AFL fans are a little confused why there hasn't been one in the 120 years that this league has existed.

I'm talking about the thought of having a Tasmanian AFL team in this competition.

What absolutely baffles me about all of this is how the AFL, led by then CEO Andrew Demetriou, gave the 17th and 18th expansion teams to the Gold Coast and to Greater Western Sydney and the history shows that these two specific areas don't play the game of Aussie Rules as the primary sport, as it is dominated by rugby league and rugby union. But that was Demetriou's motif - to expand and with any luck, gain more profit from those that spent more time watching rival football codes.

So despite all the players and the popularity of the game in the 'Apple Isle', why is it that the AFL don't have a stand-alone team in Tasmania? Several bids to have a team in Tasmania had been made since the 1990s, but it has been the same result - with the AFL turning down the request.

Given that the Suns haven't neccessarily gone anywhere since they arrived onto the AFL scene in 2011, the time is just about right for the AFL to relocate the Gold Coast Suns to Tasmania and hopefully from there, we can see some sustained success, because at the moment, nothing is going right for the Gold Coast Suns, where as in the Giants' case, they've made back-to-back Preliminary Finals.

I have listed five reasons for why the Gold Coast Suns should relocate to Tasmania

Number 5 - The Consistently Bad Results

In the 154 games that the Gold Coast Suns have played in, they have won just 40 games, losing 113 games and one draw from the 2015 season, never winning more than 10 games in a season - that being in the 2014 season when the Suns, a year in which after suffering numerous huge losses in the opening three seasons, began to emerge as a genuine Finals contender. 

After nine games into the 2014 AFL season, the Suns were entrenched in the top four, winning seven of their nine games and after 16 rounds in the 2014 AFL Season, the Gold Coast Suns were in eighth place, a game clear of ninth and had won nine from 15 games. After their five-point win over Collingwood, the Suns took a massive nosedive from there, only winning one match from their remaining seven games and ended up finishing the season in 12th place with a record of 10 wins and 12 losses - this prompted the club to sack their inaugural coach Guy McKenna and replace him with Rodney Eade.

In my honest opinion, Eade is a very good coach, but only if he has the right players around him, but given that he had inherited such a young and inexperienced list, it was never going to work out, and if anything it made the club worse in terms of both on the field and off it. Off the field there were reports of several players using illicit drugs and on the on the field, the Suns only won four games - the lowest total of wins since the 2011 and 2012 seasons, which saw them win only three games.

They would only win 12 games in the next two seasons in 2016 and 2017, and following their 23 point loss to Fremantle in round 20, Eade was sacked and replaced by Dean Solomon for the rest of the year. But the poor results didn't stop there, by round 23, the Gold Coast would kick their lowest-ever score in the history of the football club, registering three goals and 20 points in total against Port Adelaide, putting the exclamtaion mark on what had been another very embarrassing year for the Suns.

Number 4 - Tasmania's Love For The Game

Whilst the AFL isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea up North, Football is strongly liked in the state of Tasmania. The state had it's first official game all the way back in 1864 - 153 years ago, and since then football has always stuck to the people of Tasmania, as it has the second-highest producing many quality footballers. Some that have brought in premierships, Brownlow medals, Coleman medals and many other accolades. Another thing that separates football in the Gold Coast to the football in Tasmania, is that the crowd numbers that rock up to the 'Apple Isle' are pretty consistent. 

Over the past seven years, Launceston's York Park - currently the second home to Hawthorn - has managed to bring in an average between 13,000 - 15,000 spectators between the 2011 and 2017 AFL seasons - Before that, they were averaging 17,000 spectators between the 2006 and 2009 AFL seasons. Their maximum capacity is 21,000 people. Hobart's Bellerive Oval - home to a few North Melbourne games - were consistently bringing in crowds of 15,000 and 16,000 spectators in the 2015-16 seasons but suffered a dip this season due to a poor record and having to play against interstate sides such as Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney, bringing in total crowds of 10,064 and 8,758 spectators respectively.

Where as in the Gold Coast, crowd numbers numbers from their first season was impressive, averaging just over 18,000 spectators per Gold Coast home game at Metricon Stadium in the 2011 season - the maximum capacity is 25,000. However, the numbers dipped to 13,645 the following year, and despite a brief spike in 2014, could only average numbers between 11,000 and 13,000 during the 2015 and 2016 season, and following a disasterous 2017 season, they managed an average of just over 14,000 spectators.  

One would have to imagine that the fact that travelling to a game in Tasmania as opposed to travelling to the Gold Coast would appeal more to supporters to South Australian clubs and Victorian clubs, particularly the clubs with massive fan bases, and if the Gold Coast continue to go on the decline, then expect the crowd averages beyond this year to potentially fall under 10,000 and that's not a great sign for what could be ahead.

Number 3 - The Growing Exodus Of Players Up North

Having and maintaining a sporting team up in Queensland that doesn't play the sport of Rugby is always a tough assignment. Think back to the Brisbane Bears when they were introduced to the league in 1987, they only managed to last 10 seasons before the merger with Fitzroy happened and became the Brisbane Lions ahead of the 1997 season. It isn't just footy either, As the A-League's Gold Coast United had their license revoked following the 2011-12 season and two NBL teams that came from the Gold Coast both had licenses revoked.

Player retention for the AFL clubs in the state of Queensland have played such a huge role as to why both the Brisbane Lions and the Gold Coast Suns have been struggling as football organisations. The Lions, whilst have calmed down their issues of wantaway players for the moment, have often been criticised for recruiting players from interstate and within two to three years, have sought trades back home. Young players such as Elliot Yeo, Sam Docherty, Jared Polec, Billy Longer and James Aish have all departed the Lions in recent years, most of them gone on to forge solid careers so far. 

However, the player retention issue is far much worse at the Gold Coast. After being handed numerous talented players by the AFL, there are very few players left that joined the club from their inaugural season. The Suns have lost players such as Jaeger O'Meara, Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy, Charlie Dixon, Zac Smith and Maverick Weller to rival clubs, and have so far have all forged reasonable careers to date. But it doesn't stop there. Gary Ablett - arguably the club's greatest-ever player - is set to leave this off-season, as well as Brandon Matera, Adam Saad and even possibly David Swallow. Co-captain Tom Lynch could come back home to Victoria when he's out-of-contract in 2018, from all reports, fellow co-captain Steven May is being heavily courted by Victorian clubs and Trent McKenzie - long known for being able to roost a footy long and far could also follow suit.

If all of these players leave, one would have to imagine how on earth the Gold Coast Suns can continue to exist as a footy side if players continue to abandon the club.

Number 2 - The Poor Handling Of A Future Legend

There's no doubt that Gary Ablett Junior is perhaps the greatest player of the 21st century and is amongst the discussions of the greatest player of all time. A two-time premiership player, a Brownlow medallist, a three time AFLPA MVP, a four-time All-Australian and dual club best and fairest winner at Geelong, Ablett caused shockwaves when he signed a lucrative deal with the Gold Coast at the end of the 2010 season. It was at the Suns, he would add another Brownlow Medal, several All-Australian selections and multiple club best and fairests to his already stunning resume.

However, as the Suns went on the decline, part of the reason of this was Ablett's injuries in the latter part of his time at the Suns, as he was the man who was the key to getting Gold Coast up the ladder. Ablett suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the round 16 win against Collingwood in the 2014 season, and from there the Suns faced a downward spiral. In 2015, Ablett struggled with this shoulder injury and played only six games for the Suns as they struggled massively on the field, winning four games. A year later, Ablett played 14 games, but again, he struggled for impact in most of them. This prompted Ablett to seek a trade back home to Geelong in the off-season for 'Family Reasons'.

When this didn't eventuate, Ablett stepped down as captain and handed the reigns over to underrated full back Steven May and emerging star Tom Lynch. His moves prompted a lot of criticism about Ablett's lack of commitment to the Suns. This criticism reached extreme levels when he only recorded 16 disposals and looked visably disinterested when the Suns got thumped by 102 points to Greater Western Sydney. Despite all this, Ablett bounced back with a number of strong performances, yet only still managed to play 14 games as niggling hamstring injuries played a role in his limited appearances.

Again, this off-season has seen Ablett request a trade back to Geelong, citing family reasons again as the reason why he is keen to depart the Gold Coast. Many have been quick to jump on Ablett's departure saying that he is just another fleeing a sinking ship and the Suns' board are demanding adequate compensation or else Ablett will be seek out the final year of his contract as a Sun, whether he wants to play or not. However, tragedy struck the Ablett family just recently as Natasha Ablett, the sister of Gary passed away on Friday, which one can only assume was the major reason why Ablett sought a trade home.

Whether or not the details about Natasha Ablett were specified to the Suns or not throughout the last couple of years, but this looked clear that Ablett's 'Family Reasons' excuse were solely based around his sister, and the fact that the Gold Coast Suns refused to listen to him is extremely poor management and shows how incompetent the higher-ups at the Suns really are.

Number 1 - Tasmania's Football History

Tasmania has had more football history than both of the Gold Coast and Western Sydney put together, they even once had a standalone side in the Victorian Football League, known as the Tasmanian Devils and from 2001 up until 2007, they featured in the league. 

We've seen for years AFL games played for premiership points at Launceston's York Park and more recently, Hobart's Bellerive Oval, and we've seen many Tasmanians such as goal-kicking championsMatthew Richardson, Nick Riewoldt, Alastair Lynch among many others come through the AFL and leave the league as legends of the game. Today's AFL still sees the league boast some very good names in the league, led by four-time premiership Hawk Grant Birchall, North Melbourne spearhead Ben Brown, fresh off a 60-plus goal season, Collingwood defender Jeremy Howe who takes mark of the year contenders on a weekly basis and Richmond pair Jack Riewoldt and Toby Nankervis - both vital pieces to Richmond's 2017 premiership success.

Fitzroy and Melbourne were the first clubs to play in Tasmania for premiership points in 1952 at the North Hobart Oval, to which 18,387 filled in to watch Fitzroy defeat the Demons by 20 points. 40 years later, Fitzroy agreed to a deal that would see them return to the North Hobart Oval, playing two games between the 1991 and 1992 seasons. However it was a whole different story. The Lions were struggling and against a Hawthorn side that would eventually win the premiership in 1991, were completely decimated, as the Hawks kicked 36.15.231 en route to a 157-point thumping. Out of the four games that they played, Fitzroy would only win one of those four before pulling the plug on their deal. 

The AFL would not host another game in Tasmania until the 2001 AFL Season, when Hawthorn began their long association with Tasmania, hosting Adelaide at York Park (Now known as University of Tasmania Stadium). 17,460 in attendance saw the Hawks defeat Adelaide by 13 points and witnessed the start of a tremendous partnership between the state of Tasmania and the Hawks. They became main sponsors of the club since the end of 2006 and still remain on the jumper to this very day.

St. Kilda also played a few home games at York Park in the early-mid 2000s, and were one of two sides involved in the controversial 'Sirengate' fiasco during a match with the Fremantle Dockers early in the 2006 season. With the Dockers up by a point by the time the final siren was meant to sound, but the umpires couldn't hear the final siren as it was too quiet, and as a result of this, continued play long enough for St. Kilda to kick a behind and level the scores. The AFL commission overturned the result and rewarded the Dockers the victory days later.

Tasmania has witnessed so much good football in years gone by, it really is astonishing that they haven't been granted an AFL team, but if things don't get any better for the Suns, I cannot see a future in the AFL with the Gold Coast Suns in it. The AFLW are prepared to have North Melbourne work with a women's team in Tasmania for the 2019 seasons - how long will it be until we get a men's team in Tasmania admitted into the league?

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