Gold Coast is far better placed to deal with their latest crippling AFL injury crisis than they were this time last year, according to midfielder Aaron Hall.
The Suns are limping to the finish line yet again after losing Gary Ablett, Michael Rischitelli and Dion Prestia to season-ending injuries – just when it was starting to look like coach Rodney Eade might soon have had his best 22 players available for selection for practically the first time in his tenure.
It would be an unprecedented situation, had almost the exact same thing not happened at Carrara 12 months ago – but there are some key differences.
For one, the players who stepped into the void back then – like Hall, Touk Miller and Jesse Lonergan – are now a year older and a year wiser for their early exposure.
But importantly, the spine of the Suns team is in good shape as they look towards a run home featuring several genuinely winnable games.
The emergence of Peter Wright has provided Gold Coast with a quality third tall option in attack while their defence, at least since the return of Steven May from suspension, has been able to tame some of the competition’s premier forwards.
“I think we definitely sit in a better position,” Hall told AAP.
“Injuries are pretty much identical, but Peter Wright’s come on the scene. I think those talls can really cause some damage for the defence.
“Then you’ve got Steven May and Rory Thompson in the backline as well, which really stems us.
“I suppose you could say our spine is really solid and last year, a few of those guys were injury-hampered as well.”
The future is looking bright too – the Suns have also stockpiled one first-round draft pick and three second-rounders they traded in last year, to go with their own selections, and academy product Jack Bowes looms as one of the hottest properties of the 2016 draft crop.
The difficulty will be competing in midfield, but Hall – who averages 29 possessions a game this season – says he wants to become the standard-setter of the undermanned on-ball group for the rest of the year.
“I really want to take charge in there and lead that group,” he said.
“Myself, Gaz, Dids and Risch, we started to get a bit of synergy for the last month or so and we started getting on top of other midfields.
“Those three guys going down in one week’s not ideal but hopefully the rest of us can grow together and create that depth for next year as well as getting some wins on the board.”