Will Jaeger O'Meara be an instant hit?
'Good things come to those who wait' goes the old saying and if the early buzz about O'Meara is on the money, the Suns might have landed one of the best. The talented West Australian midfielder was taken by Gold Coast at the end of 2011 as part of the GWS mini-draft involving 17-year-olds and has already spent a year preparing for his AFL debut in 2013. Unlike teammate David Swallow, who starred in the VFL in 2010 before his first AFL season in 2011, it's hard to judge how ready O'Meara will be. Hip and groin problems plagued his season in the NEAFL for the Suns' reserves, limiting him to just six games, but the club maintains 2013 was always the priority for their star youngster.
A tall goal-kicking midfielder with pace, O'Meara has already drawn comparisons to Carlton star Chris Judd but he sensibly concedes it's way too early for such plaudits. Expect flashes of brilliance and the odd four-quarter blinder against weak opposition, but it's too early to expect the youngster to help Gary Ablett shoulder the load in the midfield full-time.
Will the new recruits fill the gaps?
The Suns were active players in the off-season, landing Greg Broughton from Fremantle in a trade and Tom Murphy from Hawthorn as a free agent. Murphy looks a good fit in the Gold Coast defence, helping out Matthew Warnock and promising youngster Seb Tape on the opposition's big forwards. His presence will also reduce the need for Nathan Bock to head back into defence, where he was so solid in his first year at the Suns.
However, Broughton looks the most astute of Gold Coast's two experienced off-season recruits. With Michael Rischitelli, Jarrod Harbrow and Jared Brennan variously injured, out of form or uninterested in 2012, too much was left to skipper Ablett and a bunch of youngsters collectively suffering from the second-year blues (Harley Bennell aside). Broughton has shown at Freo that he is a prolific ball-winner when given the opportunity and plays his best footy in the midfield. If Rischitelli gets fit again and Bennell can reproduce his efforts from last season, the Suns' midfield suddenly looks more solid.
What about that pesky key forward problem?
It almost seems unfair that GWS, who are a year younger than Gold Coast, has young key forwards to burn in Jonathon Patton and Jeremy Cameron while the Suns are still searching for their 10-year prospect in attack. Tom Lynch and Sam Day have another season under their belts but neither made any real strides, while the plan to have Bock in the goal square as the key target never really eventuated after he broke his leg. The slightly awkward Lynch looks the most promising of the young prospects and if Bock can play out a full season in the forward 50, the athletic Day will be a real challenge for opposition defences to contain as a third tall. The short answer? The Suns are still trying to solve their issues in attack, and there is no obvious long-term solution as yet.
Does Jared Brennan still care about football?
By his own admission, Brennan was close to giving the game away at the end of a season in which he looked like he was going through the motions most of the time. There is a fine line between lackadaisical and lazy, and the former Brisbane Lion crossed it on several occasions. At his best, Brennan can be virtually unstoppable. His talents and experience are exactly what the young Suns needed as they struggled through the first half of 2012, even if he is not a natural leader - but he failed to deliver.
Fortunately for Brennan, he still has two years remaining on his current contract. Fortunately for the club, the enigmatic utility has vowed to extract the proverbial digit this coming year. There are a lot of 'ifs' surrounding Gold Coast's 2013 chances but if Brennan can recommit to becoming an elite AFL footballer - and the early signs are good - then the Suns might actually make some serious progress. Let's hope for everyone's sake that he is as good as his word this year.
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