Gold Coast defender Steven May’s lengthy AFL suspension means the Suns will be light on defensive options for Saturday’s home clash against North Melbourne.
With key defender Rory Thompson (ankle) and experienced backline player Trent McKenzie (broken nose) already sidelined, the Suns could ill afford to lose another vital cog in the defence.
May was handed a five-game ban by the AFL tribunal on Tuesday night after his high bump on Brisbane’s Stefan Martin in last weekend’s Queensland derby at the Gabba.
The Kangaroos head to the Gold Coast with a perfect 4-0 record and boasting one the league’s most in-form forwards in Jarrad Waite.
Suns coach Rodney Eade is almost certain to need performances from inexperienced trio Keegan Brooksby, Jack Leslie and Henry Schade to fill the void left by May, Thompson and McKenzie’s absence.
Midfielder Jesse Lonergan says doing all they can to prevent the ball reaching North Melbourne’s forwards will be crucial in Saturday’s clash.
“You don’t want our ball to be in our backline at the best of times but, exactly, with young key defenders we want to put pressure on the ball carrier so they don’t have easy entries,” Lonergan told AAP.
“Also getting down and supporting them as well.”
Lonergan has emerged over the past 12 months as one of the rising stars in the Suns’ setup after a difficult first two seasons at the club.
He says Brooksby, Leslie and Schade should view the challenge ahead as a chance to grow and become better players, just like he did last year when moving into an injury-riddle Suns midfield.
“Last year Rocket (Eade) played me in a few different spots, played me in halfback for the first half of the year and I played on some good forwards,” he said.
“I was a bit out of my depth, got a few bags of goals kicked on me but then I was moved up into the midfield and had to play against the best opposition midfielders.
“I’ve learned a lot of things in the past 12 months.”