Sunday 20 March 2022 will always hold a special place in Gold Coast SUNS history … it was the day the club recorded their first win in Perth Stadium.

Trailing at every change as Levi Casboult and Mabior Chol made their debut in club colors, the SUNS kicked four goals in the last eight minutes to win 16-11 (107) to 12-8 (80) against a West Coast side that had missed the 2021 finals by half a game.

Matt Rowell, in his 18th game at the start of his third AFL season, led the way with 33 possessions (22 contested) and a team-high eight tackles and six clearances to pick up three Brownlow Medal votes.

Touk Miller earned two votes for 29 possessions, one goal, five tackles and eight clearances.

Significantly, the team that beat West Coast that day to open the 2022 season included 20 of the 23 players who opened the 2024 season with a win over Richmond last week. The only players no longer at the club are Chol (Hawthorn), Izak Rankine (Adelaide) and Jeremy Sharp (Fremantle).

Do the same exercise two years earlier and it’s a different story. There were 10 players missing from the Round 1 2020 side to Round 1 2022 - Jack Bowes, Chris Burgess, Pearce Hanley, Jarrod Harbrow, Jack Hombsch, George Horlin-Smith, Jack Martin, Anthony Miles, Jordan Murdoch and Peter Wright missing.

Only Bowes and Burgess of those 10 were still at the club at the time, and they played just seven more games before they, too, moved on.

This quick check-in with the SUNS history file begins what will be a weekly flashback series on whereby we look back at some of the significant moments in club history round-by-round.

Other key Round 1 moments include:

2013 – The SUNS posted their first win over St.Kilda 13-12 (90) to 10-17 (77) at People First Stadium. Gary Ablett had 34 possessions and kicked four goals in a typical Ablett-like performance to lead the way after the SUNS had trailed by 19 points at halftime. Jarrod Harbrow had 26 possessions was Rory Thompson marshalled a SUNS defensive unit so well in his 14th game that he recorded his first Brownlow Medal votes.

2015 – Rodney Eade coached the SUNS for the first time against Melbourne at the MCG on his 57th birthday. Touk Miller made his AFL debut and Nick Malceski, now a member of the SUNS coaching staff, made his debut in club colors after 176 games and a critical role in the 2012 premiership with the Sydney Swans. After trailing by 25 points at halftime the SUNS went down by 26 points after Miller kicked his first goal in the last minute.

2016 – Michael Rischitelli, one of the headline signings for the SUNS’ entry to the AFL 2011, played his 200th AFL game. It was a massive milestone for the ever-tenacious midfielder, who won the Brisbane Lions B&F in his final season with the club in 2010, and appropriately he celebrated with a 27 possessions and a team-high 10 clearances in a 61-point home win over a patched-up Essendon side that had been hard hit by suspensions over the club’s drug saga.

2017 – Adam Saad, now at Carlton after a stint at Essendon post-SUNS, set an equal club record 12 running bounces in a two-point home loss to Brisbane. One of the few players keen to run long distances with the ball these days, Saad equalled the record he already shared with ex-Adelaide defender and inaugural SUNS signing Nathan Bock. The only other player in SUNS history to have double-figure bounces was Oleg Markov in 2021. And despite playing only 48 games with the club Saad still holds the all-time record for running bounces at 222 – one ahead of 192-gamer Jarrod Harbrow. Gary Ablett (109) and Alex Sexton (104) are next.

2018 – Aaron Young was a 76-game Port Adelaide utility who played only 24 games for the SUNS for 348 possessions, 21 goals, four wins and two Brownlow Medal votes – but there is one thing nobody can take away from him – he was the SNS 100th player.  He grabbed this honor as Stuart Dew coached the club for the first time against North Melbourne in Cairns, celebrating with a career-best 27 possessions in a 16-point win.

Round 1 Debuts

The AFL’s introduction of  ‘Round Zero’ or ‘Opening Round’ last week has taken away from the traditional Round 1 start to the season, when no less than 42 of the club’s 144 players (29.2%) have debuted. In chronological order, they have been:-

2012 – Aaron Hall, Matthew Warnock
2013 – Greg Broughton, Tom Murphy, Jaeger O’Meara
2014 – Clay Cameron, Sean Lemmens, Jack Martin
2015 – Jarrod Garlett, Mitch Hallahan, Nick Malceski, Touk Miller, Adam Saad
2016 – Callum AhChee, Ryan Davis, Matt Rosa
2017 – Ben Ainsworth, Michael Barlow, Jack Bowes, Pearce Hanley, Jarryd Lyons, Jarrod Witts.
2018 – Nick Holman, Lachie Weller, Aaron Young
2019 – Chris Burgess, Sam Collins, Jack Hombsch, George Horlin-Smith, Jack Lukosius, Anthony Miles, Jordan Murdoch
2020 – Noah Anderson, Connor Budarick, Brandon Ellis, Hugh Greenwood, Matt Rowell
2021 – Oleg Markov
2022 – Levi Casboult, Mabior Chol
2023 – Ben Long, Bodhi Uwland