Gold Coast SUNS Chairman Tony Cochrane has delivered a passionate and powerful speech in the Chairman’s Club during the Round 19 match against Essendon.

With AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan in attendance, Cochrane vocalised the importance the Gold Coast SUNS have played in the development of the game in Queensland.

“I want to talk about our success,” Cochrane began.

“What have the Gold Coast SUNS done in nine short years?

“We have made (these facilities) a centre of excellence for the AFL on the Gold Coast, that is pretty self-evident.

“The community are proud of it and so are we here at the Gold Coast SUNS.

“Our real success is born out of the growth of AFL at all levels in both the Gold Coast region and importantly our Academy region in North Queensland and more generally in Queensland.

“Facts don’t lie, the total participation this year in Queensland in AFL is up 5.2% to 265,760 registered participants.”

Cochrane went on to speak about the success of the Queensland Schools system, with 578 teams registered in the AFLQ Schools Cup in 2019, up from 174 in 2015.

Next year the Schools Cup is projected to surpass 600 teams.

“The Schools program and competition participants totalled out this year at 202,609 – that’s the third-highest in Australia behind the up-and-coming states of Victoria and WA,” Cochrane said.

“Female participation this year has peaked at 111,642 which is up nearly 19% of the previous year.

“We even have accredited over 4,000 coaches now in the great state of Queensland and over 3,000 umpires, so we let everybody participate.”

It’s not just in the Gold Coast region either, the game has also grown substantially in the SUNS’ Academy zones in North Queensland.

The total participation rate in schools and clubs in North Queensland has grown to 50,00 players, with roughly 20,000 of those being females.

Participation on the Gold Coast and Northern New South Wales is up to 59,000, with Cochrane pointing out 10 years ago that figure was 20% of what it is now.

“So in both our zones combined, in a non-AFL state as we’re constantly reminded, we have nearly twice the participation rate of the entire state of Tasmania,” The SUNS Chairman said.

“What would those who criticise us handing out their advice have me say to those 109,000 young people who have taken up our great game in our zones in the past few years?

“We gave up? We abdicated? It got too hard? We let the system beat us?

“Well they can bugger off if they think we’re going to say any of that.”

Cochrane expressed his desire to see a strong Gold Coast SUNS AFLW team in 2020 and also praised the results the club has achieved off the field.

New deals have been struck for Metricon Stadium and the club’s partners and sponsors, as well as the introduction of cricket to go with the revamped football department at the SUNS.

In closing, Cochrane reiterated his stance in ensuring the Gold Coast SUNS are here to stay.

“Do we need changes and assistance to help us?

“Yes of course, that is a given.

“Only a complete fool would say otherwise.

“But do we have the foundations of great success? 

“You bloody well bet we do.”