As the SUNS finalise their 2023 campaign, SUNS Media take a look at six of the key takeaways from the year thanks to SIXT.
The SUNS had not won a QClash in the previous nine attempts. Since 2018, the Brisbane Lions have had the measure over the SUNS, but with a reignited Ben King kicking five goals, a fourth Marcus Ashcroft medal for captain, Touk Miller and an overall strong team performance subsequently saw the SUNS reign champions of Queensland in one of the biggest wins of the expansion club’s history.
Hardwick signs on:
The SUNS secured the signature of three-time premiership-coach, Damien Hardwick with the new Senior Coach on board for the next six seasons. Hardwick’s resume speaks for itself with more than 300 games coached at the Tigers following a 207-game playing career.
Combining a wealth of experience with the belief that a large contingent of the players on the list will provide the SUNS with their first taste of premiership success should excite SUNS members and supporters.
Debut & Rising Star:
Both Mac Andrew and Bailey Humphrey were awarded Rising Star nominations in 2023. Versatile defender, Andrew was nominated as the Round 20 Rising Star Nominee after collecting 14-disposals, seven marks (three contested) and 340 metres-gained. Humphrey managed to secure his nomination in only his sixth AFL appearance with 10 contested possessions, five tackles, five inside-50s, and 404 metres-gained and has been a main-stay in the SUNS starting 22 since.
Four SUNS players pulled on the red, gold, and blue jumper in the AFL for the first time.
Bodhi Uwland (Round 1)
Bailey Humphrey (Round 4)
Ned Moyle (Round 4)
Lloyd Johnston (Round 23)
SUNS record another membership record:
The Gold Coast SUNS managed to break their all-time membership record for the fourth consecutive year with over 23,000 members in a first for the club. This is the second straight year the SUNS have reached more than 20,000 members and will aim to continue growing and building in 2024. The SUNS hosted the Pies in Round 16 in front of a SOLD-OUT Heritage Bank Stadium, a first since 2013.
The SUNS 2023 Club Champion evening saw a first-time champion in Noah Anderson. In only his fourth season, Anderson was prominent in shouldering a young midfield in the absence of two-time Club Champion, Touk Miller who missed roughly half of the season. Midfield compatriot Matt Rowell also had a very impressive year breaking the record for ‘most tackles in a season’ and subsequently finishing third in the Club Champion Count. Key defenders, Sam Collins (runner-up) and Charlie Ballard (fourth) finalised the top-four demonstrating the quality mix of experience and young talent at the SUNS.
SUNS players, Connor Budarick, Lachie Weller, Will Powell, and Touk Miller have all been major contributors to the SUNS despite undergoing injuries that have limited the time that they have spent on the field.
Budarick spent more than 400 days on the sidelines after suffering a second serious knee injury however was able to return stronger than ever, work his way through the VFL ranks and earn selection for an AFL return in Round 23.
Although Weller has had an interrupted season with injuries there is no doubt that his recovery from an ACL in the off-season and the ability to have an impact as early as Round 2 is a monumental achievement.
Skipper, Touk Miller suffered a meniscus injury in Round 6 which kept him sidelined until Round 17. Miller’s absence is understandably a big hole to fill in a young midfield however the leadership Miller demonstrated was second-to-none. Assisting coaching staff as well as guiding prodigies in Rowell and Anderson to career-best seasons highlights Miller’s club-first attitude. To then come back and impact on the field for the remainder of the season which included a fourth Marcus Ashcroft-medal is true leadership.
Powell missed a considerable amount of football in 2022 after doing ligament damage in his ankle in Round 14. He then had a delayed pre-season this year however was able to prove fit and make a return in Round 2. He was consistently among the top disposal earners and the running half-back showed no signs of ankle problems with his run and speed off half-back as electric as ever.