In 2015, Gold Coast’s defensive stocks were often exposed as injury and suspension ravaged key members of the SUNS’ back six, particularly in the key posts.
Rory Thompson managed just 12 senior games with a hip flexor injury derailing his campaign while emerging star Steven May played 18 after copping an early-season suspension for a bump on Brisbane Lions captain Tom Rockliff.
As a result, inexperienced players were thrown to the wolves, so to speak.
However, with round one of the 2016 season just a handful of days away, the tides are turning at Metricon Stadium and turning strongly.
With the arrival of mature-aged rookie Tom Keough via November’s rookie draft, Keegan Brooksby’s transition from a ruckman/forward to tall defender and the continued development of Henry Schade and Jack Leslie, the talent pool at the SUNS in the defensive posts suddenly appears deep.
Having a full contingent of fit players in that space also allows the defenders to build chemistry together, a vital part of establishing a solid team defence capable of repelling the best opposition forward lines.
“It was good to get some consistent boys down there this year,” Rory Thompson told SUNS TV at Burleigh Heads on Tuesday.
“Last couple of years we’ve really had to rotate a lot of players through there who didn’t quite know the structures and things like that.
“So to settle it down a bit this pre-season and in the NAB Cup it’s been good for everyone.”
The healthy competition for spots in Rodney Eade’s senior lineup drives his players to work harder, to become better.
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But it’s not just those banging down the door for selection who are looking to impress, it’s the incumbents like Thompson and May who are pushing their bodies to the limit day in, day out, determined to get the absolute best out of themselves.
“It can only help the team having the pressure for spots,” Thompson said.
“We’ve got some good new additions down there. Tommy’s been pretty good in the pre-season in the NAB Cup.
“Keegan Brooksby coming down another tall who can play multiple positions and Henry Schade and Jack Leslie still pushing for spots and playing some good footy.
“So it’s only going to push me and Maysie [Steven May] to try and better ourselves and try and really hold those spots down so it’s just good for the team.”