Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane has labelled comments by AFL icon and Brisbane premiership coach Leigh Matthews about the Suns’ existence as a “cheap shot”.
Cochrane launched into an impassioned defence of the Suns after Matthews told the Seven Network on Monday night he still believes there is not enough demand to warrant two AFL sides in south-east Queensland.
The former V8 Supercars chief executive said the claim there was no room for the Suns in Queensland was a “stupid proposition” and Matthews’ comments were like “arrows in his back”.
While Cochrane conceded the injury-hit Suns were underperforming on the field in 2016, that was no reason for the AFL to abandon their expansion project.
He said the viability of the AFL as a national game requires a presence in the sixth largest city in the nation.
Cochrane said it would take at least two decades before it could be determined whether the Suns had been a success or not.
“The truth of the matter is we need everybody supporting and helping us, we particularly need the Gold Coast community doing that, but we need everybody in the AFL as well,” he said.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship. They didn’t get a two and a half billion dollar media TV rights deal because that’s what they would have got if it was just a Victorian, South Australian, WA game.
“They bought into it because it was a truly national competition and to have that you ignore the sixth largest city in the country? I don’t think so.”
The Suns and Lions have struggled in recent years, both on and off the field, with recent crowds modest at the Gabba and Metricon Stadium.
The Lions have won just once this year, over Gold Coast, while the Suns have crashed after a bright start to the season.
Cochrane urged the Gold Coast community to stick by their team despite their recent on-field woes.
“It’s a privilege to have a national team, it’s not a right,” Cochrane said.
“This is rugby league heartland, this isn’t a natural AFL market … we have to, brick by brick, build up a foundation and it’s going to take 20-25 years in my humble opinion.”