Best 22 – round one
B: Kade Kolodjashnij, Steven May, Sean Lemmens
HB: Jack Bowes, Rory Thompson, Adam Saad
C: Alex Sexton, Touk Miller, Pearce Hanley
HF: Michael Barlow, Tom Lynch, Jack Martin
F: Ben Ainsworth, Peter Wright, Callum Ah Chee
Foll: Jarrod Witts, Gary Ablett, Aaron Hall
I/C: Jarryd Lyons, David Swallow, Matt Rosa, Jesse Joyce
The Suns were dealt a huge pre-season blow when losing Sam Day for the year with a dislocated hip. Day is the most versatile of Gold Coast's key position players and his loss leaves them little margin for injury at either end of the ground. Michael Rischitelli (ACL) is expected back in May, while Jarrod Harbrow (ankle) has recovered from surgery and should be available in the early rounds.
The big questions
Can the Suns make their first finals appearance?
It's year seven and the club and its fans are getting restless. The last two years the Suns have endured a crippling injury toll, but chairman Tony Cochrane has been quick to trumpet the "no excuses" mantra for 2017 with a relatively full list and flash new training and administration facility.
Will Gary Ablett be at the Suns in 2018?
It's a question many will ask but it is unlikely to get answered until the end of the season. The champion midfielder asked to be traded during the past off-season and hasn't ruled out retirement at the end of this one. Chairman Tony Cochrane says there's no way Ablett won't be at the club next year, and if the Suns have a good year, it's hard to see him walking away, but only time will tell.
Will the new midfield mix work?
The Suns lost Dion Prestia (Richmond) and Jaeger O'Meara (Hawthorn) in the off-season, but scrambled superbly to land the experienced Pearce Hanley, Michael Barlow, Jarryd Lyons and ruckman Jarrod Witts. Just how this mix works, along with an injury-free Gary Ablett and David Swallow, could go a long way to determining how successful the Suns are.
He's been a slow burn for three seasons, but it could be the year for Jack Martin to explode. The talented West Australian finally got some continuity with 21 games last year and finished third in the club's best and fairest. Coach Rodney Eade has said he'd like three Martins on the field – one in each section of the ground – so influential is he. Don't let the light frame fool you – Martin is arguably the Suns' best contested player along with one of its most skilled.
Who they play
The first five weeks could be crucial for the Suns as they play Greater Western Sydney, Hawthorn and Adelaide in an early test of just how good they'll be. If the Suns can stay afloat in the first half of the year, the draw should open up with two fixtures against each of Carlton, the Brisbane Lions, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide – the teams predicted by AFL.com.au (whatever that's worth) to occupy the bottom four places on the ladder.
Fantasy cash cow
After two seasons in the wilderness (he played six games in 2015 and none last season), David Swallow ($355,000) looks a bargain. It's easy to forget that in his last full season (2014) before knee troubles struck, the bull-at-a-gate midfielder was a best and fairest winner in a 10-win year. He's had an excellent pre-season and although Swallow will be played in a variety of roles in the early rounds, he'll move to a more permanent midfield role soon enough.
Ben Ainsworth was drafted with the No.4 pick and has fitted in beautifully in his first pre-season. He'll play a good chunk of games as the team's small forward. Jack Bowes will also play regularly, starting at half-back, while the new midfield additions of Hanley, Barlow, Lyons and Witts should be hard to dislodge from the 22. Draftee Will Brodie won't play straight away, but watch for him to get his chances as the season wears on.
It's crunch time for…
Brandon Matera. The clever West Australian has been a regular since the Suns formed, but he's facing an uphill battle to retain his spot. Although he can spend small minutes in the midfield, Matera's best work is done close to goal, where he's now fighting Callum Ah Chee and Ainsworth for a place. The Suns were open to offers for him at the end of last season, and with Matera out of contract at season's end, the 25-year-old needs a big year.
Pressure rating on the coach
Temperature's rising. 'Rocket' really hasn't had much of a chance in his first two seasons, so heavily have the Suns been smashed by injury. But the reality is he's in the final year of his contract and needs to see some fruit for his work. Off-field the Suns are a new club, have straightened their wobbly culture and developed good young leaders, but a losing record in the first half of the year could have Eade under pressure.
The Suns will have a good year if…
They stay healthy – it's that simple. They have one of the game's best forwards in Tom Lynch, one of its best defenders in May, and a deep midfield spearheaded by a genius named Ablett. The Suns are still light-on for depth in a few spots and need their top 25-30 to stay relatively healthy.
They’re in trouble if …
Steven May or Rory Thompson gets injured. Sam Day's season-ending hip injury was a huge blow because it leaves very little wiggle room in the key posts. May has been durable over the years and Thompson has had arguably his best pre-season, but behind them the Suns can turn to either Jack Leslie or Keegan Brooksby who have played six and 11 games respectively.
If – and it's a big if as we've seen the past two seasons – the Suns have a relatively good run of health, they should play finals. They have class and experience in every part of the ground and showed with a patched-up team for much of last season they could take it right up to almost every team.
AFL.com.au predicted ladder finish
Player Ratings star
Tom Lynch, 25th. Not just a Player Ratings star, but Lynch is a genuine star of the competition. He kicked 66 goals in a team that won just six games and was named an All Australian for the first time in 2016. The man that took the most contested marks last season was a handful for every opponent that lined up on him. With a deeper midfield to hopefully supply more opportunities, watch for Lynch's number to again rise this season.