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McKenna and the Suns ready to go

By Darren Cartwright 10/03/2011 12:25:43 PM Comments (0)

As an untried senior coach, Guy McKenna has more to offer the Gold Coast Suns than blind hope and promises as he guides the fledgling club into their first AFL season.

Having first joined West Coast as player for their second campaign back in 1988, McKenna has already drawn upon lessons learnt in the formative years at the Eagles.

The first piece of the puzzle was having Carrara as a home base and the last could be seen as recruiting Geelong's gun midfielder Gary Ablett in a raid on some of the best unsigned talent in the competition.

"There's a lot of parallels I can see between my time and experience at the Eagles and being here," McKenna said.

"You take the good out of that club (the Eagles) as well as the bad as far as our going around from oval to oval and not really having a home base until we could move into Subiaco Oval.

"That was one of the big reasons why I was such a big push for Carrara.

"To get all the footy and the club infrastructure under the one roof at the one place was certainly one thing that I wanted from day one."

With a place to call home, GC17 had somewhere to blossom into the newly-branded Suns.

Next was the big-money signing of former Brisbane Bronco Karmichael Hunt, who at this stage has teased more than pleased AFL critics.

And after that was the raid on out-of-contract established stars from other clubs which netted Ablett, Hawthorn hardman Campbell Brown, fellow defenders Jarrod Harbrow and Nathan Bock and Brisbane duo Jared Brennan and Michael Rischitelli.

If there's one thing that has made the Suns stand out as a genuine AFL club on the Gold Coast, it's the manner in which they have been constructed compared to the ad hoc manner of the Bears in the late `80s.

Recruiting has been meticulous, providing the Suns with an injection of star quality while leaving sufficient room for development.

In essence, McKenna has one eye firmly on the opening clash of 2011 against Carlton on April 2 and the other on seasons 2012 and 2013.

"Everyone develops mentally and physically at different rates, but sometimes we don't have six or seven years for that penny to drop for those kids," he said.

"Knowing that and giving everyone a fair and equal opportunity, we have to make seven or eight changes at the end of the year.

"We looked at our list and what it is going to be now and having to be competitive but knowing it is going to have to develop and grow too."

No.1 draft pick David Swallow is a ready made quality midfielder and can only improve working alongside Ablett, Rischitelli, Brennan and former North Melbourne onballer Daniel Harris, one of several older players who provided the necessary experience in the VFL last year.

Swallow is not the only fresh face who will impress in 2011 with midfielder Maverick Weller, goal sneak Brandon Matera and raw key forward Charlie Dixon all amongst their best 22.

Where the club could find it toughest is cobbling together winning scores in their debut year.

"Everyone will look at our side in the first year and see that we targeted our mid-back players," McKenna said.

"Certainly of our eight (recruits), four of the back six in Bock, (Nathan) Krakouer, Brown and Harbrow are there to shore that up.

"I'd like to think we may have to average more inside 50s this season so we can get some score on the board but with a sound defence, I think that's where the game is at."

Despite some encouraging signs in the pre-season, the bookies have listed Gold Coast as favourites to claim the wooden spoon in their debut year.

McKenna has refused to reveal publicly what would constitute an acceptable win-loss ratio.

"The external perception is the external perception, we've got our own individual expectations such KPIs (key performance indicators)," he said.

"If they stack up and we win a game of footy that's great, but I'm loath in any season to put down any number on how many games we have to win.

"It comes down to how we develop individually and more as a group."

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