On the back of a troubled 12 months on and off the field, the 2016 AFL season looms as a defining one for Gold Coast.
The Suns, tipped by many to claim a debut finals berth before the start of last year, instead found life difficult in their first season under the guidance of Rodney Eade.
On the field, injuries bit hard as the Suns picked up just four wins with only a draw keeping them away from bottom two Brisbane and Carlton.
Off it, the club struggled amid reports of a drug culture and fractures within the playing group.
Tough decisions have since been made by Eade and his coaching panel as they try to get the Suns back on an upward trajectory.
Mercurial Harley Bennell was offloaded to Fremantle when his off-field distractions were deemed to outweigh his talent while big forward Charlie Dixon plumped for a fresh start at Port Adelaide.
Doubts remain over the future of young gun Jaeger O’Meara, as well as his fitness as he battles to overcome a debilitating knee injury.
Eade however believes the Suns’ horror 12 months have brought positives that the club can draw on as well.
“It’s probably good that we had the injuries at the same time we’ve had some other issues we needed to get right and improve on with culture and leadership,” Eade told AAP.
“Obviously you’d like your results to be better, but sometimes your results can mask some cracks as well.
“I don’t think it was the year we had to have but if you’re going to have things go wrong it’s probably better to get them out of the way at the same time.”
Adding to the Suns’ woes last year, influential skipper Gary Ablett was battling to overcome a shoulder injury which restricted him to just six appearances.
Eade says while he doesn’t know if Ablett can hit the heights he reached before the injury, he’s fully expecting the dual Brownlow medallist to play a key role in the Suns’ campaign.
“He’s had a very good pre-season. Really attacked it with a lot of enthusiasm,” Eade said.
“You never say a bloke’s going to get back to his best when he’s 31 but if anyone’s going to be able to do that, it’ll be Gary.”
Giving the Suns hope is a kind draw to the start of the year.
A tricky road trip to Fremantle in round two looms as the toughest challenge the Suns will face in their opening five weeks.
Eade says whatever happens, the work put in to rebuild the club he walked into in the wake of Guy McKenna’s 2014 sacking is paying dividends.
“Results are paramount but if we’re going to be a successful team we need to engender belief and confidence,” he said.
“People can’t see what’s happening behind closed doors but we’re pretty confident in the environment we’ve created.”
Coach: Rodney Eade
Captain: Gary Ablett
Last five years: 17-17-14-12-16
Key five: Gary Ablett, Tom Lynch, Steven May, David Swallow, Dion Prestia.
One to watch: Touk Miller. Was a rare shining light for the Suns in 2015, playing all 22 matches in his debut season and finishing fourth in the best and fairest award. Can he take it a step further this year?
Ins: Callum Ah Chee (South Fremantle, WAFL), Keegan Brooksby (South Adelaide, SANFL), Daniel Currie (North Melbourne), Ryan Davis (Swan Districts, WAFL), Brayden Fiorini (Northern U18), Jarrad Grant (Western Bulldogs), Jesse Joyce (Palm Beach-Currumbin, Qld), Tom Keough (West Adelaide, SANFL), Cameron Loersch (South Fremantle, WAFL), Darcy McPherson (Northern U18), Matt Rosa (West Coast), Adam Saad (rookie elevation), Josh Schoenfeld (Peel Thunder, WAFL), Mackenzie Willis (Kingborough, Tas).
Outs: Harley Bennell (Fremantle), Andrew Boston (delisted), Greg Broughton (delisted), Charlie Dixon (Port Adelaide), Tyrone Downie (delisted), Jarred Ellis (delisted), Josh Glenn (delisted), Daniel Gorringe (delisted), Josh Hall (delisted), Louis Herbert (delisted), Andrew Raines (delisted), Zac Smith (Geelong), Timmy Sumner (delisted).
B: Adam Saad, Steven May, Jarrod Harbrow
HB: Nick Malceski, Rory Thompson, Kade Kolodjashnij
C: Jaeger O’Meara, David Swallow, Matt Rosa
HF: Jack Martin, Tom Lynch, Michael Rischitelli
F: Brandon Matera, Sam Day, Touk Miller
R: Tom Nicholls, Gary Ablett, Dion Prestia
I: Mitch Hallahan, Jesse Lonergan, Aaron Hall, Trent McKenzie
Predicted finish: 13th
Betting (William Hill)
To win the flag: $101
To make the top eight: $3.25