The GC SUNS are hoping to reap the rewards in 2023 from a midfield developed and moulded throughout the past two AFLW campaigns. 

The 2023 season will be the third with a SUNS engine room fuelled by Charlie Rowbottom, Alison Drennan, Claudia Whitfort and ruck Lauren Bella with the group poised to build on a strong 2022 campaign.

Rowbottom, Drennan and Whitfort made up the top three in the SUNS Season Seven Club Champion count and the latter says the group are ready to fire come Round 1.

“That cohesion has really grown between us in the last couple of years. Having that group of us together is going to be important this year,” Whitfort said.

“We’ve definitely been running more kilometres (in pre-season) and working on our work rate. That’ll definitely have us on our way to bridging that gap with the top teams in the competition.”

Former number one draft pick Rowbottom had a Season Seven to cherish, taking out her first SUNS Club Champion, but Whitfort says the 20-year-old is just getting started.

“She’s an absolute work horse. She’s been working immensely on her game in the last nine months & I’m really excited to see how she goes this year,” Whitfort continued.

“She’s only a young girl so she’s still got a lot to learn and she’s come on leaps and bounds so far this year.”

The SUNS open its AFLW campaign on Saturday, September 2 at Ikon Park against Carlton following pre-season games against the Swans and Lions.

Those outings provided plenty of feedback for Head Coach Cameron Joyce and his side as well as an opportunity to test new combinations and expose the SUNS’ off-season recruits.

Seven of the eight additions earned game time during pre-season with a number in contention to make AFLW or club debuts in the opening round.

“We were pretty happy with our contested and clearance work (in the pre-season games), we just need to be a bit better going inside forward 50,” Whitfort added.

“If you lose, you learn a lot more from those games so we’ll learn from both matches heading into the season and hopefully open the season from the win.

“All the girls have slotted in really nicely and they’re all bringing their own flair to the team. It’s really exciting to what they’ll bring to our side this season.”

The SUNS first home match on the Gold Coast is in Round 2 against the West Coast Eagles on Saturday, September 9. Get your tickets here or secure your seat for the full season as a SUNS AFLW member.