Gold Coast to begin pruning list

Sportal August 30, 2012, 10:50 am
Guy McKenna

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Gold Coast's late-season surge has created a welcome dilemma for coach Guy McKenna as he grapples with task of cutting seven names from a Suns list overflowing with talent.

With 46 senior players on their books for 2012, the expansion side must trim down to 42 in time for next season while also making way for the minimum three new draftees.

But the Suns' vastly improved second half of the year - which reached its apex with a stunning win over Carlton on the weekend - has unearthed even more gems than anticipated at Carrara.

An injury crisis that has swallowed up nearly half the entire club has brought a silver lining, exposing the Coast's second and third tier players to the rigours of regular AFL football.

Now a few names McKenna might have considered lumps of coal earlier in the season have morphed into diamonds.

"If you asked me that in Round 6 I'd have said the decision to cut seven players off our list, I would have said it was a no-brainer. I could have given you 10 or 12 (names)," the coach said.

"Right now, I'm going to have some more grey hairs because it's going to be a lot tougher."

The Suns will take their time with the decision, given the likelihood that players cast aside will get second chances at other AFL clubs.

But whoever is lucky enough to stay on the list will have a 'fight' on their hands just to get a game next year, says McKenna.

"Given how we've performed, there's going to be some competition for spots, which is fantastic. There'll be a fight on," he said.

"There's nobody in this side right now - bar the captain - that can say I'm the number one in this position. All those positions are up for grabs and the competition is certainly healthy going into next season."

Having toiled through a difficult sophomore season in the AFL, McKenna and Gold Coast can now see rays of light at the end of the tunnel.

The Carlton win arguably earns the club and the coach a pass mark, matching last year's total of three wins.

But the Suns will be expected to rise again in 2013 as a band of key players approach the magical 50-game barrier, a prospect which left McKenna salivating.

"As dark and gloomy as this year may have seemed, on the back of our second-year players really carrying the load, I'm pleasantly encouraged about going into next year," he said.

"I'm sure next year we'll be able to go into that season knowing that we'll have nine blokes potentially playing 50 games, which would be an AFL record I would have thought.

"Fingers crossed those senior players return from injury and get themselves back into the form they showed last year, and it's going to be fairly exciting."

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