The Gold Coast's honeymoon period is over.
Photo: Getty Images
SOAPBOX: The Gold Coast chairman may have done the club a favour with his bold premiership declaration...
Last Friday, the chairman of the Gold Coast Suns, John Witheriff, declared that his club will win a premiership within the next three years. There are a few different ways to respond to this.
The first one, of course, is to laugh. Gold Coast, after all, has barely managed to win a game up until this point. Watching that team of spindly, pimple-faced teenagers do battle with the likes of Hawthorn and Geelong is like watching a group of toddlers get eaten by lions.
The second way is to tut-tut. For some people, those sorts of declarations just place unnecessary pressure on all concerned. Just look at Brett "Top four or bust" Ratten earlier this year, or Peter "Premiership" Schwab in 2002. All Witheriff has managed to do for his players is set them up for a mighty fall.
We say that both ways are wrong. Sure, Gold Coast almost certainly won't be snaring a flag by 2016 (indeed, some of its players will be lucky if they manage to hit puberty). And, yeah, the prediction piles on the pressure. But pressure makes diamonds, as the cliche goes. If bits of coal weren't forced to carry the weight of the world they would never get shiny and strong.
"Comfortable visions don't take people anywhere," is how Gold Coast's chief executive puts it. The chairman's bold statement was "supposed to stretch people. It's supposed to make you feel a little bit uncomfortable when you first hear it." And if just makes you giggle, then "that's the reaction our footy club loves," adds Witheriff. "That's the thing that will make us get out of bed, stand up (and) do that extra hard work."
And what if all that hard work comes to nothing? (Well, ok: And what about when all that hard work comes to nothing?) Is any harm really done? Maybe yes, in the case of Guy McKenna's career, but by then he will have had six years. If Gold Coast are at least within sight of a premiership by that point, chances are that he'll keep his job. If they're not, then it's time to go.
The Gold Coast Suns are two years old and their players aren't too much older. With GWS, they're the babies of the AFL. And, as with all babies, it's tempting to coddle them. "Ooh, don't they look cute in those red jumpers," we new parents coo, our critical faculties temporarily on hold. "Look, that's so sweet! They're trying to play football."
But as any good parenting book will tell you, this attitude will only serve for so long. Life is stern and life is earnest. There comes a time when mum and dad must stop marvelling at the miracle that is their wee poppet's existence, and start exposing them them to the cold, hard world.
For Gold Coast, that time is now. While it would be unfair to describe the club as a spoilt, pampered brat, the potential is clearly there. They live well away from the media cauldron, and very close to the beach. They have a shiny new stadium and generous salary cap concessions. They have some of the AFL's best-paid players and no less than 14 first-round draft picks.
But now, thanks to their chairman, they have the potential to fail as well. It won't hurt. "Your primary job as a parent," says Dr Phil, "is to prepare your child for how the world really works. And in the real world, you don't always get what you want."
And it probably won’t hurt their marketing department either. Seeing toddlers get eaten by lions, week after gruesome week, would be a hard sell after a while. Supporters want to hear that there’s light at the end of the tunnel – that there’ll be a time when The Embryo Strikes Back.
And who knows, it might.
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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.