I think still a couple of years away at least, no doubt.
That’s the wisdom of new Gold Coast Suns coach Rodney Eade on playing finals, paving the way for sub-par ladder finishes while buying the substantial time he thinks he needs to rectify the mess he has inherited.
Give us a spell Rocket.
The Gold Coast were handed more concessions than the Qatari World Cup bid team, yet here we are, five years in, the time to shine, and we’re still “a couple of years away” from the predicted tidal wave of glory heading to Surfers Paradise?
The back pages of the Murdoch press only 18 months ago were littered with a combination of fear and jealousy, the existing AFL clubs moaning about the inevitable success heading the Suns’ way.
It was to become as easy for the Suns to win flags as a Kardashian entering a nightclub – without any obstruction, many envious onlookers, and with a whiff that those in charge paid for it to happen years ago.
With the talent they could acquire from numerous and lofty draft positions, the swollen salary cap that could allow the recruitment of Brownlow medallists and the over-payment of free agents in order to entice their skills north, it was all going to culminate in a dynasty that could ruin the southern clubs.
Alas it hasn’t.
Guy McKenna got the lemonade and sars for taking them as far as they could, and Mark Thompson was the man they wanted. Yet no-one told ‘Bomber’ or the Suns about his trip to Cancun, and the backside fell out of that dream quicker than McKenna was sacked in the first place.
Up steps Eade, who hasn’t coached a game since the winter of 2011 – a year after he coached the Western Bulldogs to back-to-back preliminary finals, but alas he was shown the door at the kennel and Brendan McCartney took over.
Eade’s coaching career is remembered as worthy, but for all the coaching vacancies that opened over the last 36 months, Eade barely rippled the surface of the candidacy pond. Was he overlooked with a sense of poor luck, or was he placed, perhaps rightly so, in the ‘Thanks for your time’ basket of former coaches?
Eade’s former club though is remarkably showing up the Suns, an embarrassment for all at Carrara and those backing the expansion franchise.
Those sons of the west are doing far more with less, and the comparison with the Suns shows how much admiration the Doggies deserve, especially after a tumultuous offseason.
From the 2010 preliminary final side that lost to St Kida, only six players remain: captain Rob Murphy, Matthew Boyd, Dale Morris, Liam Picken, Will Minson and Easton Wood. Furthermore, Jordan Roughead is the only draft selection who was taken prior to that final who remains in the picture.
In the 2010 draft they were fortunate to pick up two ripper father-sons in Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore, as well as late selections Luke Dahlhaus and Jason Johannisen, two tremendous role players for their side today.
Their fans are now seeing the fruit of a complete and necessary rebuild.
Compare that to the equivalent foundation the Suns were blessed with as they prepared for year one of their history.
Their free agent signings included Gary Ablett, Michael Rischitelli and Nathan Bock, and their zone/priority selections brought in the likes of Charlie Dixon, Zac Smith, Rory Thompson, Brandon Matera and Steven May.
Next, their draft class of 2010 saw David Swallow, Harley Bennell, Sam Day, Dion Prestia and Tom Lynch join a list already bursting at the seams with rich, raw talent.
Since then the Dogs and Suns selections at the draft table have been not too dissimilar, while their activity in the trade and free agency market has been at times equally as resplendent, last year’s respective acquisitions of Tom Boyd and Nick Malceksi proof of that.
Ultimately, however, the difference lies in the management, development and moreover the coaching of the lists assembled.
McCartney eventually walked the plank but he brought a mix of local football dominance through after a decade inside the tent at all-conquering Geelong. He preached hard work and developed the kids into future stars.
Luke Beveridge coached premierships in the amateurs and worked as a development coach at Collingwood in their premiership year, before playing a key part in assisting Hawthorn to three grand final appearances on the trot.
Both men clearly bring a sense of system to the way their teams play.
System, as shown by Ross Lyon teams, can often transcend playing lists; soldiers all playing in the same way and for each other often will defeat an opposition more talented but less organised or committed.
McCartney has clearly taught these young pups defence and Beveridge looks the catalyst in infusing the supplementary offense, the polish to a side destined to become regularly competitive.
Meanwhile, Guy McKenna, if you read between the lines of Eade’s comments, relied far too much on talent and did not instil the system, or drive a culture to nurture one.
The Suns appear to roll on to the footy field much like fellow Gold Coast resident Bernard Tomic does a tennis court: loaded with talent, not enough preparation or hardness, and probably too much time spent in fast cars, or schoolies.
Now Eade is publicly downplaying expectations and preparing for hard work, yet even then, does he have the wherewithal an Alistair Clarkson, Ken Hinkley or now Phil Walsh has to turn mediocrity into success?
Credit must go the Bulldogs, a successful rebuild appears to have them en route to a finals return. Elsewhere, the Suns are treading water in a rip of substandard performance and have no-one to blame but themselves.