Blues Love The Suns

It was undoubtedly an historic night, in case you’d missed the point the previous fifteen thousand times the marketing approved mantra had been chanted. Although by night’s end the Gold Coast players and coach may have been thinking that some history was best left unrecorded.

What it wasn’t at any stage was a contest, which served to reinforce that at this point in their history the Gold Coast Suns are a heavily subsidised commercial venture which aspires to become a football club. At least that’s what we might presume they aspire to. Gold Coast CEO Travis Auld was heard to offer the opinion that they were an “entertainment product” during the week. Now I know modern CEO’s probably feel it necessary to talk like all the other cool kids at business central, but whatever people might accuse Eddie McGuire of, you’d sincerely doubt he thinks of his Magpies in such terms.

The entertainment package probably lost a little ground to the Gold Coast fun parks on Saturday night. I’d harboured some concerns about this game. The theory was that the still-fresh Suns would be primed to make a splash, much as they’d caught the Swans off guard in the NAB. Which just shows what a dammed fool I am.

Ten minutes in, it was obvious rabbits in a spotlight would be harder to pick off than Suns. The 9-7 to 1-1 ¼ time score line probably failed to fully reflect the debacle, as the Suns’ red guernseys suddenly blended into witches hat orange.

Everything after ¼ time was effectively junk time. The Suns youngsters couldn’t cope with the tempo, they were smashed at centre bounces, and split apart in defence. Unable to get first possession, they spent their energies fruitlessly chasing Navy Blue. The Carlton midfield soon gave up worrying about their opponents and went chasing kicks, with more space to move in than you’d expect in a poor practice game. The whole affair developed a strange air of farce.

It was surprising how unprepared the Suns appeared. Yes, they had twelve AFL debutants, but they seemed to suffer from tactical, as well as player naivety. Carlton did the obvious: load up the forward line and go for the jugular. The Suns had no response. And who thinks leaving Chris Judd unattended at centre bounces is a good idea? Guy McKenna and his assistants remained in the box long after the game. You fancy it was the first of many long meetings this week.

As might be expected in the circumstances, the experienced Suns had a mixed night. Michael Rischitelli had plenty of practice playing in a badly beaten side last season, and he was at least a consistent ball-winner despite not locating his direct opponent, Bryce Gibbs, very often. Daniel Harris played like a man determined to seize a second chance and racked up 30 possessions.  Campbell Brown kept Eddie Betts quiet but had little other impact.

Others fared less well. Nathan Bock fought on, but looked underdone. Jared Brennan was, well, Jared Brennan. He also looked in need of a run. Nathan Krakouer was subbed, Jarrod Harbrow was led a dance by Jeff Garlett. Josh Fraser did little to make Collingwood regret his loss.

And then there was Gazza. He no doubt felt obliged to play this first game, but he was always likely to struggle given his interrupted preparation. Shadowed by Carrazzo, he tried hard but had little impact. When Judd nailed him in a tackle, his lack of zip was glaring. The motivations for his move north were most likely much more complicated than just money, and he’ll have to wrestle many more complex emotions this season.

Potential commentator’s nightmare Karmichael Hunt at least took the pressure off callers by barely touching it. To be fair to him, most first gamers will struggle when forced to defend opponents who are a full head taller, in a backline under siege. He deserves time, but he most likely faces a future as a journeyman, when he could be a star elsewhere. The money better be worth it.

Though they were overawed, the kids offered some redemption. Dr Zachary Smith already looks like their natural first ruck. Matera, Bennell, Swallow, McKenzie and Toy showed enough to suggest they’ll make it. Charlie Dixon will terrorize defenders in years to come. And there are more on the sidelines who didn’t play first up. Plus more in future drafts. The AFL has given this venture access to the best kids available, so the future should be solid.

But the present will be tough. Supporters were no doubt bussed and trained from far afield to build the crowd up to 27,000. And the redeveloped Carrara will be launched amid great fanfare in round ten. It will, however, all depend on the largesse of the AFL and the public purse. This will no doubt be forthcoming, as corporate credibility is on the line in this empire expansion exercise. The slickly edited videos will keep coming, the hard sell will just get harder if performances like this one are repeated. It will all make the old Brisbane Bears seem quaint by comparison. Whether this will all add up to a real football club remains another matter.

Australia likes to talk a free market game, but historical fact suggests otherwise. Farmers, manufacturers, miners, media moguls and the middle class have all historically taken their turn supping at the subsidised teat. In this regard, the Gold Coast Suns can claim a part of a real historical tradition. The AFL obviously has dreams of empire, but empires can cost a lot. The number of people reliant on football’s coffers only increases. Resources spent in these areas will come at the expense of others, something that will no doubt be occurring to existing clubs already.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Tony Robb says

    One could suggest that they may wish to put a ferris wheel and a putt putt golf course out the front of Carrara in the hope families become confused and enter thinking they are a theme park. Bluey spuiking out the front “Roll Up, Roll Up. Come see the greatest array of witches hats seen by man and run through them at your will”.

  2. Peter Schumacher says

    The fact is that there is not enough interest to support two teams there. Simple as that.

  3. John Butler says

    TR, their choice of jumper colour seemed unfortunate on Sat night. But with all the resources that will be thrown at them, they’d do really poorly not to have a decent team at some stage. But will we ever care?

    Peter, you may well be right. Not that the AFL will be inclined to listen. They have dreams of empire and endless TV money.

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says


    the Blues were sharpening their skills for this Friday. I thing the Suns should have the bye every second week. That way all the other teams get one bye for the year. It’s not as if the Suns will make the final anyway. 12 trial or warm up games in the main fixture would’ve been sufficient. They will not be competitive for at least 2 more years.

  5. John Butler says

    Phil, I presume you are going Friday? As will I. We should catch up. I promise to try to behave. :)

  6. Phil Dimitriadis says

    I’ll be there JB. Can’t promise to behave though. Email me your mobile on [email protected] and I’ll reciprocate. Looking forward to it. How long since we were 1st and 2nd on the ladder?

  7. Mulcaster says

    I used to go to Carrara in the Brisbane Bears days. It was a lousy place. They have put alot of money and effort into improving the ground. But you have to wonder about the culture. Chris and Pixie would be driven into the ground in their limo, there was always plenty of powder blue suits on display. Usually, two thirds of the crowd was made up of the opponent’s suporters. There was a victorian colony on the Gold Coast, the Bjelke-Petersen goverment had abolished death duties and the place filled with transplanted homesick woodducks. A Carlton supporter living on the canals remained a blues fan. The Gold Coast was like that back then. The locals supported Rugby League or were too busy making a quid. The support base was narrow. Usually the Bears would get flogged to the rapturous applause of most of the crowd. The Gold Coast Suns is a team of transplanted Woodducks …. what do you expect? It will take years for them to develop. I hear you say ….what about Karmichael Hunt? Why am I so reminded of Warwick Capper? I think the Gold Coast Suns need to look to the mistakes of the Brisbane Bears. They need to develop a genuine supporters base and accept that they will not be most supporters first love.

  8. When Bluey was looking particularly worried at times on Sat night, he seemed to develop an uncanny resemblence to Michael Clarke. Which means we’ll most likely have to cop that look, summer and winter, for the forseeable future.

    To me the Suns looked like Tequila Sunrises on legs.

  9. johnharms says

    Bluey looked very dexterous while overseeing the crisping of the bacon on the BBQ – not sure which paper the shot was in.

  10. Mulcaster says

    Tequila Sunrises? I don’t think so….a Tequila Sunrise has a kick.

  11. One game, a season doth not make (or some such thing). Geez, it was the first game with a bunch of newbies and the knockers are having a field day. I’d give them a few weeks to find their feet and I reckon they’ll be “competitive” in most games – could’t hope for more than that in the first year.

  12. John Butler says

    Wouldn’t argue that they will improve Pond. Or is that Mr… nevermind.

    With all the new talent they’ve been gifted, they would want to.

    I was surprised they looked so unprepared. They’ve had plenty of time to get ready. Peter Knights had only 17 weeks to prepare the Bears.

    My point lies more with the broader exercise. What will be the long term cost? It seems pretty open ended at present. And who will pay in the long run?

    Between GC and west Sydney, a lot of money will be burned.

  13. PondScum says

    Yep you are certainly talking big bickies (in fact, if converted to Tim Tams I imagine it to be more than I could eat in a week. Although if the family was enlisted I reckon we’d give it a nudge).
    I have no idea of the figures that rumble around AFL HQ – I still fail to understand my own cash flow – but I’m sure they are eyeing off the fact that Sydney & Gold Coast have about 23% of national population. And currently AFL has poor marketing penetration (just see how many people watch the Swannies on Fri night footy). If they could double or triple the number of people interested, it would still be well behind the Melbourne level of interest but it would be a lot of people.
    The lifeblood of AFL is totally dependant on broadcast rights which is related to viewer interest. I don’t think they have a choice but to go after those unenlightened & uninterested viewers.

    Although from a marketing point of view maybe they should have gone for free beer (& tim tams) at every Swans game

  14. Josh Toy looked very comfortable when subbed on. Stayed cool when others were losing their heads. Coach comes out and backs the team, saying no changes will be made. Toy is dropped.

    I can see the Swans picking up a heap of 20-21 year olds in a few years time that have been chewed up and spat out (like Toy is worringly looking like), and riding them to another crack at a flag.

    I wonder what odds I can get on the Swans in 2014?

  15. John Butler says

    Shaken, I thought he looked OK too.

    One issue to follow will be how the need to play Karmichael compromises selection. Toy and Coad would seem to be two likely to be affected by this.

  16. johnharms says

    JB, I should mention this piece made the reads-of-the-week section on the Age’s website. Nicely crafted.

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