The Gold Coast SUNS will crown this year’s Club Champion on Friday September 25, amongst a host of other awards for this season.
SUNS Media have had a look at the top contenders for each award and outlined the reasons why each could win it.
This year could be the closest in recent memory in the race for Gold Coast’s Club Champion gong. Reigning champ Jarrod Witts has a strong claim to retain his crown after another impressive season as the club’s number one ruckman and co-captain. He finishes the year ranked second in the AFL for hitouts and hitouts to advantage.
Sam Collins is a serious contender to take the honours this year. After missing half of last season with a hip injury, the reliable key defender rebounded to play every game in 2020. The 26-year-old has elevated his game to the next level, becoming one of the best interceptors in the league with 7.1 intercept possessions (AFL rank #2) and 2.7 intercept marks (AFL rank #5) per game. There haven’t been many games where Collins has been beaten by his direct opponent.
Vice-captain Touk Miller will be up there in the votes after another consistent campaign. The 24-year-old is no stranger to polling on Club Champion night, finishing as Runner-Up in 2018 and sixth place last season. This year the tenacious midfielder finished the year ranked fifth in the league in tackles in what has been his best campaign to date. Miller averaged 20 disposals and five tackles per game in shortened quarters this season, which equates to 25 and seven when converted to full-length stats. Miller has also polled six times in the AFL Coaches Association votes, increasing his likelihood of receiving high Club Champion votes in those rounds.
One of the club’s new recruits this season, Hugh Greenwood has become a reliable player in the midfield. The 28-year-old has built a reputation as one of the best tacklers in the league, evidenced by his competition-high 117 tackles at an average of seven per game. Greenwood has also been a clearance beast this season, leading the SUNS in total clearances and ranking third overall in the league with just under six per game. The inside midfielder played a starring role in the win over Sydney in Round 7, with his 12 tackles and 18 contested possessions ensuring he claimed a perfect 10 AFLCA votes that week. He’s likely to poll maximum Club Champion votes in that round and should also poll consistently throughout the season to be a threat for the podium at the very least.
A dark horse to finish strongly in the Club Champion this year is second-year defender Jack Lukosius. After a full season in the backline, Lukosius has become the AFL’s metres-gained king, averaging an impressive 470m per game (AFL rank #1). He’s polled AFLCA votes in three games so should theoretically poll well in those games, but has also been consistent throughout the whole year in defence. Lachie Weller and David Swallow also have a strong track record of polling votes and should both feature prominently in the vote count after consistent seasons. Expect Weller to start strongly and Swallow to collect a lot of votes mid-season.
Elastoplast Best Emerging Player:
There are a number of contenders for this award which was won by Charlie Ballard in 2019. Ballard is a chance again this season after taking another step in his development to be a key pillar in defence alongside Sam Collins. Ballard ranks just behind Collins in intercept marks but is still number six in the league in that stat; a massive achievement.
Lukosius is also a candidate for this award after the big step he’s taken since his debut year. After averaging 11.2 disposals last season, the 20-year-old has lifted that to 16.4 in his 17 games this year. When adjusted for the shorter game-time that number climbs to 21.75, almost double his output from last year which is significant improvement.
Noah Anderson is another to be considered as Best Emerging Player. Coming to the club as a highly-touted outside midfielder, Anderson improved his game mid-season to become one of the club’s trusted on-ballers. Earning recognition with a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in Round 7, Anderson continued to grow and was amongst Gold Coast’s best players from Rounds 14-18.
Also in the conversation would be Connor Budarick; who has been trusted with playing on some of the competition’s most dangerous small forwards this year, and Izak Rankine who has set the bar high in his first season at AFL level.
HOSTPLUS Most Professional:
The HOSTPLUS Most Professional Award is voted on by club staff across the medical and high performance departments. Someone who would be a good chance for this award is Ben Ainsworth, who has earnt praise for his professionalism and has helped guide draftee Sam Flanders in his first year at the club. Touk Miller is another in the mix for this award, as is emerging leader Brayden Fiorini who has been a driver of standards at the club. Others in the mix would be Hugh Greenwood, David Swallow and Jarrod Witts.
The Players’ Player Award is voted on by the playing group, therefore is a hard one to pick but in the past has been reflective of the overall Club Champion results. Last year the award was shared by Touk Miller and David Swallow, and the pair are once again in the running this year. Hugh Greenwood has been a popular teammate and is in with a good shot, while Sam Collins Jarrod Witts and Lachie Weller would also be strong contenders.