Gold Coast Suns coach Rodney Eade is remaining buoyant of his side’s ability to play finals football in 2017, despite the expansion club being still without a finals berth after six seasons in the AFL.
Discussing the upcoming season with SEN’s new breakfast show The Wednesday Crunch, Eade suggested that playing finals is more a reachable target rather than a pass mark.
“I reckon there’s 14 or 15 teams who could say they want to play finals,” Eade said.
“If we do well with injuries then I think we can push for that (top eight) but there’s a lot of good teams and it’s a very even competition. It’s going to depend on a lot of different variables.
“From our point of view, certainly we’d like to be competitive against teams where the losing margins aren’t as big and we can win some games.”
The Suns will need to prove that they are a worthy side without star midfielder Gary Ablett, and Eade believes that having Ablett back among others will be a huge bonus given his young side has already learnt to deal with being without key personnel.
“We have to go past Gary…you can’t rely one player – if you’ve got 22 players and you’re playing in a final – you can’t rely on one player. As good as he is, and as good as he was,” Eade said.
Ablett is still currently recovering from surgery on his ongoing troublesome shoulder, and despite the Suns losing Rischitelli, O’Meara and Prestia, the dual Brownlow Medallist will spend much of the year playing in the forward half.
“He’s done all his match-simulation, even though his shoulder isn’t right to do total contact, as a forward,” Eade conceded on SEN Breakfast.
“I still think he’s a very good midfielder, but if he plays as a permanent forward, he’d kick 50 or 60 goals, I would have thought.
“If you’re a defender on him, you’d be twitching like anything.
“His ability to read the ball and be in the right spot, is as good as I have ever seen.”
Being without two highly-touted youngsters in Jaeger O’Meara and Dion Prestia would seem to be a big loss, for any club, however Eade brushed away suggestions that losing those two to the Hawks and Tigers respectively is a sign that the club is struggle to retain its youth.
“I certainly think people are making too big a deal of it,” Eade said.
“There’s been a lot of rhetoric around ‘can’t keep players’. There’s probably only four players, including those two (O’Meara and Prestia), who we have tried to keep…it’s not a big deal.
“We’ve got six at the end of the year who are out of contract. Three have already signed and the other three will sign within the next month, so I think internally there is a bit of a different attitude to it than what people see externally.”
It is uncertain as to which club wins out of Gold Coast and Hawthorn regarding the Jaegar O’Meara exit, since the youngster hasn’t played a single game in two seasons due to a knee injury.
Eade was confident that losing O’Meara would actually benefit the club more than if he had stayed, doubting his longevity.
“I would have loved him to stay. He is a jet, he is a great kid, he has got a great attitude but he hadn’t played for two years,” Eade said.
“Whoever we were going to get – you can say Jarryd Lyons from Adelaide – we’ve been able to get a player that we know is going to play 22 games.
“The history of what he has had with his body, there has got to be some question marks. He can’t say 100 per cent that he is going to be able to play.”
The Suns also acquired Michael Barlow, Pearce Hanley and Jarrod Witts over the off-season.