It’s the time of year where speculation is at fever-pitch. Who is tearing up the track? Which players are set to take their game to another level in 2023?
SUNS Media look at some burning questions the team faces as Round 1 approaches.
How will the forward line look with Ben King back?
After a year on the sidelines, key forward Ben King has a fierce hunger to return to AFL level. In his absence the SUNS forward line was still able to function efficiently, with Levi Casboult and Mabior Chol forming a new partnership and combining for 79 goals. King booted 44 goals himself in the 2021 AFL season, but can all three players fit into the same forward line structure? If not, who misses out? Ben Ainsworth proved himself as one of the premier small forwards of the AFL competition with 25 goals and will once again be important for the team, while Malcolm Rosas Jnr has room to improve on his 14 goals with added responsibility after the departure of Izak Rankine. Add to the mix Joel Jeffrey, who is fit and firing again, as well as Jack Lukosius and Nick Holman and suddenly there is substantial depth in the forward line, making it difficult to squeeze everyone in. Then there’s top draftee Bailey Humphrey who has looked dangerous in his short amount of time at the club – it won’t be an easy selection discussion for Round 1.
Where will Jack Lukosius play?
He’s played everywhere on the field in his four seasons to date, and there is always debate about where Lukosius should line up. After a standout pre-season with the forwards group, Lukosius looks set to continue in the forward line where he played all his junior football. The 22-year-old has improved his running capacity significantly over the off-season and is even capable of spending stints on the wing where he can connect with the forward line through his precision foot skills.
Who’s set for a breakout year?
There are two SUNS in defence who will be looking to grasp their opportunity at AFL level in 2023. Jy Farrar is one who has established himself as one of the most versatile players on the club’s list – able to play as a tall defender but also agile enough to match up on dangerous opposition small forwards. Possessing explosive speed, Farrar also has the traits to be a damaging rebound option in attack. Farrar will be hoping to establish himself in the best 22 and add to his 25 career matches this season.
The other SUN who has been drawing praise through pre-season is Charlie Constable. Constable has been reinvented as a small defender after years of traditionally playing as an inside midfielder. His ability to win the ball is unquestioned, but a skill that is often hard to recognise when he plays in the middle of the ground is his kicking efficiency. With more time with ball in hand in defence, Constable has proven to be a reliable ball user down back for the SUNS and, with positions in the backline up for grabs for Round 1, the 23-year-old has done everything possible to put his name in consideration.
Can the SUNS overcome a challenging early draw?
There’s no better test for where this team is at than to take on last year’s two Grand Finalists in the opening three rounds of the 2023 season. The Round 1 opener against Sydney and the Round 3 home match against Geelong sandwiches a trip to Essendon in between, with the SUNS then taking on St Kilda and 2022 semi-finalists Fremantle in Rounds 4 and 5. It’s a challenging start, but if the team can come out of the opening five rounds positively it will set them up for the rest of the season.