Gary Ablett captained the Suns through a horror 2012 season. Picture: Scott Powick/SMP Images/Gold Coast Suns
Gary Ablett captained the Suns through a horror 2012 season. Picture: Scott Powick/SMP Images/Gold Coast Suns

Damning: Suns’ critical shortfalls exposed

Gary Ablett captained the Suns through a horror 2012 season. Picture: Scott Powick/SMP Images/Gold Coast Suns
Gary Ablett captained the Suns through a horror 2012 season. Picture: Scott Powick/SMP Images/Gold Coast Suns

GOLD Coast Suns documented critical shortfalls in its medical and conditioning departments which helped spark a crippling player exodus.

It has been revealed former football manager Marcus Ashcroft sounded the alarm about glaring off-field deficiencies to the Suns board in 2012, as the struggling Suns lost their first 14 games in their second AFL season.

Poor training facilities and under-resourced off-field services have been blamed as key reasons for a string of player departures, leaving the AFL's $200 million gamble at rock bottom in its eighth season.

A review of the Suns' 2012 medical and conditioning departments showed the club had spent $750,000 on staff, almost $400,000 less than the club average.

Carlton ($1.4 million) and Collingwood ($1.2m) topped the league spend, according to the Gold Coast report.

Ashcroft said in a damning club assessment the Suns were under-resourced in the "critical" high performance area, jeopardising the players' on-field development and retention strategy.

"The conditioning/medical review process has been thorough, confirming a gap in expertise in one of the most critical positions in our football department," Ashcroft wrote.

Suns fans struggled through 2012 and things haven’t been much brighter since.
Suns fans struggled through 2012 and things haven’t been much brighter since.

The Suns have failed to play finals in eight campaigns and will call on the AFL to provide emergency assistance including a priority draft pick at season's end.

A host of stars have left, including Jaeger O'Meara (Hawthorn), Charlie Dixon (Port Adelaide), Dion Prestia (Richmond), Harley Bennell (Fremantle), Adam Saad (Essendon) and former captains Gary Ablett (Geelong) and 2018 free agent Tom Lynch.

Ashcroft, who moved into the AFL's football operations department this year, urged the board to provide funding for a high performance manager with at least seven years AFL experience ahead of the Suns' third AFL season.

Gold Coast replaced respected fitness guru Andrew Weller, who is now physical performance manager at Cricket Australia, with Adelaide Crows' high performance manager Steven Schwerdt for 2013.

"I recommend the board acknowledge the deficiencies identified in our conditioning/medical department," Ashcroft said.

Marcus Ashcroft in the Suns facilities during 2012. Picture: David Clark
Marcus Ashcroft in the Suns facilities during 2012. Picture: David Clark

"It is my intention to proceed with securing as a priority a High Performance Manager that satisfies the criteria required in delivering an elite training program to our playing group.

"On the approval of additional funds that I proceed to recruit additional highly credentials doctors and physiotherapists to support our medical program."

Ashcroft said a lack of proper off-field resources would jeopardise players' on-field progress and the Suns' retention strategy.

"The risk of not proceeding to secure our resourcing needs is a stagnation of player's (sic) on-field development, on-field performance and player retention," Ashcroft said.

The Suns had allocated $330,000 for medical staff, including two doctors (cost $120,000) and three physiotherapists ($210,000).

The Suns report showed Collingwood spent double on medical staff ($650,000) after back-to-back grand final appearances in 2010-11.

The Suns tried to poach ex-Collingwood premiership fitness boss David Buttifant but were knocked back, along with Richmond's Neil Balme, Geelong's Simon Lloyd and Tigers' list architect Blair Hartley.

The shambolic training facilities included a sweltering tin-shed gym and an "uneven" and "rock-hard" back training oval behind Metricon Stadium.

The under-resourced off-field areas were at odds with the league's vow to deliver the Suns' top-class facilities to help nurture the AFL's best young talent after a bumper 2010 national draft.

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