The days of drug scandals, broken drinking bans and questions over leadership are over on the Gold Coast, according to Suns coach Rodney Eade, who says his side has matured considerably after an AFL season to forget.
Eade believes the Suns started making strides, culturally speaking, towards the back end of last year and said players have continued taking more “ownership” of the team throughout the summer.
“People don’t see it but I’ve said it heaps of times. We made a lot of ground towards the end of last season,” Eade said on Thursday.
“Last half of last season there was a lot of growth in leadership and a lot of growth in our culture, a lot of growth in our ownership of the team by the players.
“Talking about making some tough decisions at the end of the year, getting some new staff in the high performance area, which was probably an area of weakness, I think has really galvanised the group.
“I think a lot of things have improved and I think that’s added to the players being more professional.”
After a promising 2014, Gold Coast was tipped to give the finals a shake last season but a seemingly endless array of scandals, off-field controversies and sheer bad luck through injury limited them to just four wins.
This year, Eade says a top-eight finish is not out of reach.
“People’s expectations you have got no control of. Certainly from our point of view we expect not only to be more competitive but to win more games,” he said.
“Obviously we had a lot of injuries last year and lot of players missing but I would think out of the 18 teams there are probably 14 teams who think they can make the finals.”
The Suns begin their pre-season campaign with a clash against the Brisbane Lions on Sunday in Burpengary, in Brisbane’s northern suburbs.