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Dockers Deny Determined Suns

Andrea Brayshaw (Dave Woodley/AFANA)

The Fremantle Dockers held off the determined Gold Coast Suns in a desperate battle for a position in the top eight. The game was crucial to both teams who were outside the top eight at the start of play. The twenty-point win elevated the Dockers into fifth position on the ladder and pushed the Suns down to twelfth. The Suns started the game with a sense of urgency. In the first ten minutes they had won more contested possessions and made more forward entries than the Dockers to have two early goals on the board to big forwards Sam Day and Jack Lukosius. Sam Rowell was powerful at center bounces and along with Noah Anderson, gave the visitors early use of the ball. Heath Chapman defended well for the Dockers to stop several Sun incursions. After the two Sun goals, the Dockers increased the pressure at stoppages. Caleb Serong, Sean Darcy, and Andrew Brayshaw won more clearances. The game flowed from end to end with open play, good kicking and marking (catching) a highlight.

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AFANA's Who's Hot and Who's Not

Welcome to AFANA’s new column where we look around the league to check in on which players are dominating and who is struggling as the new season starts to take shape. With all teams heading to sunny South Australia for the AFL’s second iteration of “gather round”, these are the names you want to keep an eye on as they are currently the difference makers for your favorite teams.

HOT:

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More Retirements and Delistings Plus Trade Notes

Nakia Cockatoo (file photo)

Daniel Howe, 27, has retired while Carlton has delisted Josh Honey, Sam Philp and Lochie O’Brien. Brisbane small forward Nakia Cockatoo retired. Gold Coast has delisted Brodie McLaughlin and Jed Anderson while Charlie Constable has decided to retire to pursue other opportunities away from football. Plus, we have some trade notes in this report. 

Howe was originally drafted by Hawthorn as a midfielder and defender. He played 96 games for the Hawks before being delisted at the end of 2021. He was drafted as a rookie by North Melbourne inn 2022 and played 10 games for the Kangaroos. North Melbourne general manager Todd Viney said, “Dan has only been at the club for one season, but he’s had a significant impact on the group in his time here. He brought a professional attitude to his training and preparation, and gave his all in every game he played, whether at AFL or VFL level."

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Adelaide and Port Adelade Delist Players and Two More Retire

Luke Dunstan (file photo/AFANA)

Adelaide delisted McPherson, Jackson Hately, Tariek Newchurch, and Tyler Brown while Port Adelaide delisted Riley Bonner, Trent Dumont, Brynn Teakle, and Nathan Barkla. Luke Dunstan retired from Melbourne and Gold Coast saw Connor Blakely hang up the boots.

McPherson played 28 AFL games since being drafted in 2017. He had to overcome a series of soft tissue injuries and played nine games. He won both the Mark Bickley Emerging Talent Award and Brian Sando OAM Award for professionalism on Club Champion night. The hard-working defender was a regular in Adelaide’s senior side in 2021 when he played 18 games, however injuries have restricted him to just one AFL game since then. Hately has also played 28 AFL games including 15 with the Crows after he joined Adelaide from GWS at the end of the 2020. He played 11 games in 2021 and one this year while performing strongly in the SANFL. Newchurch joined Adelaide as a Category B rookie from its Next Generation Academy in 2020 and has been a valuable contributor to the Crows’ SANFL side for the past three seasons, as has Tyler Brown who joined the club as a rookie in January and played one AFL game for the Crows to go with 27 at his former club Collingwood.

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Hardwick to Coach Suns

Hardwick at The Big Freeze (file photo)

There has been much speculation recently linking former Tiger coach Damien Hardwick to Gold Coast. Just after Round 23 concluded, the Suns made it official. Hardwick has been signed as the new senior coach for the next six years. Hardwick, 51, coached the Tigers in 307 games and took them to premierships in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

Gold Coast chairman Bob East was thrilled to make the announcement, “It is with great excitement that we welcome Damien... We have been unequivocal in our desire to deliver success for our football club, for our loyal and growing group of members and fans, and to the wider Gold Coast community. This appointment is clearly a significant step in that direction. When we began the process ... it was quickly apparent Damien was the best candidate available ... We have high expectations ... and firmly believe Damien can deliver on these ...".

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The Departures Begin

Shannon Hurn (file photo)

Just days before Round 21, three players announced their retirements - Eagle defender Shannon Hurn, North Melbourne defender Aaron Hall, and young Hawthorn ruckman Jack Fitzpatrick. Hurn will see out the season by playing the last two home games for the Eagles, resting during the away games. Hall and Fitzpatrick will not see out the season due to injuries.

SHANNON HURN

Hurn, 36, is one of the most highly decorated players in Eagles history and the games record holder will finish with 334 games. Hurn said, “I love playing the game and I know I’m really going to miss it. But I also know the time is right ... you can’t go on forever and it’s time for me to step away. It has been a great honor to play for this football club over the last 18 years and I have loved it since the day I arrived. There are life-long friendships and memories that have been created here and I will always be grateful for that. There are too many individuals to acknowledge ...Obviously all of my teammates, my two senior coaches John Worsfold and Adam Simpson ... I feel very lucky to have played for as long as I have, always wanting to contribute to the team, but ultimately the game does catch up with you ... ".

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Suns Sack Coach

Dew at "Big Freeze" (Densham/AFANA)

Shortly after Round 17, Gold Coast informed senior coach Stuart Dew that his services were no longer needed. In recent weeks, reports had leaked out that Dew would lose his position despite CEO Mark Evans recently stating that Dew would remain. Dew, 43, departs the Suns with a 36-84-1 record from 121 matches. The Suns are currently in 13th place.

Dew was appointed in 2017 and his best season in charge was 2022 when the Suns won 10 games. He was contracted through 2024. Assistant coach and former Geelong player Steven King will take over for Dew for the remainder of the season. There is already speculation that former Richmond coach Damien Hardwick is favored to replace Dew.

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Suns Eclipse Eagles

Roses against Rotham (Woodley/AFANA)

The Gold Coast Suns easily accounted for the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium, with a dominant second term and a powerful final term. The Suns won in most areas of play, winning contested possessions 150 to 116 and almost doubling the number of forward entries made by the hapless hosts. The Suns were led by Jarrod Witts who dominated in the ruck and Matt Rowell who collected twenty-nine possessions (13 contested) and laid a season high seventeen tackles. Tim Kelly was strong in the midfield for the Eagles picking up 26 possessions (17 contested) and laying six tackles. First-year player Reuben Ginbey gave him good support in the packs, laying sixteen tackles and picking up twelve possessions (9 contested), but the combination of Rowell, Noah Anderson, David Swallow, Will Powell, and first-year player Bailey Humphrey overwhelmed the undermanned Eagles' midfield.

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Supplemental Signings

Anderson against Port Adelaide

The Supplemental Signing Period (SSP) started several months ago and ended February 15. It allows clubs with available spots to sign players as rookies. Below are the clubs and the players they signed.

ADELAIDE

The Adelaide Crows had two spots open on their list with Fischer McAsey and Paul Seedsman both being placed on the inactive list for the 2023 season. They signed former Collingwood midfielder Tyler Brown as a rookie for this season. Brown has signed a one year deal. Brown is the son of former Magpie premiership player Gavin and played 27 games for Collingwood before being delisted at the end of 2022. He had battled illness and injury in stint with the Pies.

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Retirement, Unretirements, and Temporary Delistings

McDonald-Tipungwuti Back? (file photo)

Roster changes in the leadup to the AFL draft later this month continued at Gold Coast, Essendon, and Adelaide. In early November, inaugural Sun Rory Thompson announced his retirement citing ongoing knee issues as the reason. Thompson, 31, played 106 games for the Suns and leaves as the longest serving player in the club's short history. He was a local zone selection for the club and was one of only four players from the Gold Coast region selected for their inaugural 2011 season.

Two knee reconstructions disrupted his career, and he made a comeback early this season after almost four years on the sidelines. In making the announcement, Thompson said, “It’s been such a long journey with so many ups and downs and wonderful people ... I’m super grateful to the Suns for giving me that opportunity so many years ago as a young kid and having stuck with me all this time, it’s pretty hard to put into words what that means to me ... Towards the end of last year it was getting hard to back up games and keep my body moving and it just felt like the right time ... I ... didn’t think I would get drafted, so to go to where I am now after 14 years, I’m very proud of myself and the work I’ve put in and very grateful to the people that have helped me get this far.”

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