Coach: David Lake
Captains: Leah Kaslar & Sam Virgo
Final ladder position: 4th in Conference A
The gameplan. Under David Lake the SUNS played a free-flowing and attacking style of football, always looking to take the game on wherever possible. It allowed the defence to set up well behind the ball and repel, evidenced by the fact the SUNS had two players (Lauren Ahrens and Jade Pregelj) place in the top 5 for rebound 50’s league-wide. The fast and skilful ball movement also saw the forwards cash in from forward 50 entries, with Kalinda Howarth finishing tied-third in the league’s goalkicking.
The SUNS best win came in Round 2 against Richmond in what was the team’s first ever home game at Metricon Stadium in front of over 7,000 supporters. Jamie Stanton was one of the best afield that day with 20 disposals while Kate Surman was a shining light in the forward line with two goals. The SUNS also displayed their high intensity game-style, recording 73 tackles for the day – 20 more than the Tigers.
She was the club’s first AFLW recruit and Jamie Stanton proved why she has forged a reputation as one of the best midfielders in the competition. The 24-year-old isn’t afraid to put her head over the football and finished the year averaging 17 disposals and four tackles per game. She also showed her ability to rotate forward, kicking two goals throughout the year. Stanton was the SUNS’ best performer in the AFL Coaches Association AFLW Champion Player of the Year Award, finishing 9th overall.
Rising Star candidate:
Nominated for the NAB AFLW Rising Star Award after a dominant three-goal display in Round 3, Kalinda Howarth is becoming a must-watch footballer. She backed that performance up with another two goals against North Melbourne in Round 4 before going ballistic against West Coast with a four-goal haul. It’s not just about stats for Howarth, it’s the impact she has on the game as a dynamic forward. She pushes up the ground to assist teammates and is also more than happy to lay a big tackle in the forward line. Her pressure around the ball allows other teammates to thrive around her.
Not many knew about Lauren Ahrens heading into the 2020 season, but there’s a good chance some of her opponents won’t be able to forget her too easily now. Playing as a key defender, Ahrens was as consistent as they come. She finished the year with 46 intercept possessions (3rd league-wide) and 24 rebound 50’s. She rarely lost a one-on-one contest and was a calm head coming out of the backline. The 28-year-old also finished in the top 25 for disposals league-wide, an unbelievable result for a key defender.
Breaking out on and off the field, Kate Surman is one to watch for the future. Affectionately known as Spud, Surman was plucked from Maroochydore in the QAFLW and has immediately made an impact at AFLW level. Used as a midfield/forward option for Gold Coast, Surman kicked three goals and averaged 14 disposals and five tackles per game in 2020. She has elite agility and speed and proved to be a shrewd off-season pickup by the recruiting team. She’s also a big fan of microphones.
Season Grade: A
Not many gave the SUNS a chance heading into 2020, but the team proved everyone wrong to stamp their claim as the best expansion team this season. A maiden finals appearance and the first ever for the club (men or women) will go a long way towards building confidence for 2021.