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The birth of the AFL’s seventeenth club involved a long gestation period: after their formation was announced in 2008, the Suns played in the TAC Cup in 2009 and then in the VFL in 2010 before finally making their debut in the big-time in round 2, 2011.
Former West Coast champion, and Collingwood assistant coach, Guy McKenna was appointed the club’s first senior coach, and former Geelong Brownlow Medallist Gary Ablett its first captain.
The league wanted to get a toehold on the Gold Coast because the region south of Brisbane was experiencing a population explosion and already boasted teams from rival codes, the NRL, A-League and NBL. And they would make sure the fledgling club had none of the teething problems that the Carrara-based Brisbane Bears experienced in the late 1980s: it would have virtually everything money could buy in order to become a successful flagbearer for the code.
The Suns would play at a redeveloped 25,000-seat arena on the Gold Coast - to be known as Metricon Stadium, the same ground that served as the Bears' home base from 1987-92 - but the facilities, and luxurious surrounds, were a far cry from old Carrara Stadium.
Former Queensland rugby league state-of-origin star Karmichael Hunt was lured to the club on a lucrative deal and the publicity his recruitment attracted - both good and bad - went a long way to paying his first season’s salary.
The Suns’ debut season produced a several memorable moments - notably the wins over Port Adelaide in round five and then Brisbane, its new intrastate rival, two weeks later - but by and large it was a long year, marked by 19 defeats and a steep learning curve for the young playing list. McKenna blooded 34 players - many of them barely 20 and still physically undeveloped - through the year and managed to rotate them heavily to keep them fresh.
In the end, their win-loss record was 3-19 (a round-17 triumph over Richmond gave them win No.3) and they finished the season - as expected - in last place. Former Adelaide defender Nathan Bock was a tower of strength in defence all year and finished second in the club’s best-and-fairest award to Ablett, who proved his brilliance despite being the obvious target for taggers each week. Of the youngsters, Trent McKenzie, David Swallow and ruckman Zac Smith made the biggest impression - and they were expected to lead the team’s improvement in 2012.
Although the Suns' chances of competing seriously for the premiership in the near future look remote, their more immediate concerns are to establish themselves as a viable and credible club both on and off the field, and to build a solid supporter base in the greater Gold Coast region. The Suns, and their AFL backers, are thinking long term, and in that respect they have no other choice.
In January 2008, it was reported that the AFL officially registered the name Gold Coast Football Club Ltd with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The registration was effective from 24 December 2007. The registration was of a public company limited by guarantees rather than by shares, the corporate personality common to 15 of 16 of the current AFL teams, the exception being the Fremantle Football Club. In March 2008, the AFL won the support of the league's 16 club presidents to establish a side on the Gold Coast and an 18th side in Western Sydney.
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou announced in early 2008 that the club could debut in the Queensland State League in 2009 as it recruits players and prepares for its debut season in the AFL. At one stage it was rumoured that Michael Voss would coach the Gold Coast team and that he had been offered a six-year contract. However, these rumours were proved false when Voss was appointed coach of the Brisbane Lions from the beginning of the 2009 season. Amongst the first players targeted by the Gold Coast were current St Kilda captain and Gold Coast junior Nick Riewoldt, Hawthorn forward and 2008 Coleman Medallist Lance Franklin and Adelaide forward Kurt Tippett.
In June 2008 it was announced that the new team would play in the TAC Cup in 2009 and then in the VFL in 2010.
In early 2009, the Host Plus superannuation fund was named as the club's major sponsor. On 15 May 2009, it was announced that highly respected Essendon administrator Travis Auld would be the CEO of "GC17". Former Brisbane Lions Shaun Hart and Gold Coaster Marcus Ashcroft were also appointed to the coaching panel.
On 1 October 2009, the club announced it had signed Guy McKenna as head coach until 2012. In early 2009, the Queensland Government announced that it would contribute sufficient funds allowing the redevelopment of Gold Coast Stadium. The capacity of the new stadium will be 25,000 and is scheduled to be complete in May 2011. All home matches other than the games versus Brisbane Lions will be played at the new Gold Coast Stadium.
They have also been confirmed to play their first AFL game at The Gabba in Round 2 against Carlton after a bye in Round 1, 2011. Their first game at the new stadium will be against Geelong in round 10, 2011. Also amongst the blockbuster games at home for the Suns in 2011 are both 2010 AFL Grand Finalists Collingwood and St Kilda (both of whom the Suns will only play once) and Geelong.
The club's junior squad competed in the 2009 TAC Cup under 18 competition winning a number of games, eventually finishing in fifth place. They defeated the Northern Knights in the elimination final but then lost their semi final to the Geelong Falcons.
In the leadup to the 2009 AFL Draft, the AFL allowed the Gold Coast to recruit 12 players born between January and April 1992, with all other AFL clubs being restricted to players born in 1991 or earlier.
Karmichael Hunt, a former professional rugby league player with the Brisbane Broncos and rugby union side Biarritz Olympique in France's Top 14, was signed to swap codes to play for the Gold Coast from 2010.
Gary Ablett junior, dual premiership player with Geelong and winner of the 2009 Brownlow Medal, signed a deal reportedly worth $9.6 million over five years to captain the Gold Coast during their starting years.
Other significant signings to the current junior team that played in the VFL included Stanis Susuve (a member of Papua New Guinea's International Cup winning team) and Brandon Matera (whose father Wally Matera and uncles Peter and Phil all played senior AFL football with the West Coast Eagles).
At the end of 2010 season, the club had been given the following concessions:
B: Seb Tape Nathan Bock Campbell Brown
HB: Jarrod Harbrow Karmichael Hunt Nathan Krakouer
C: Trent McKenzie Daniel Harris Michael Rischitelli
HF: Danny Stanley Charlie Dixon Alik Magin
F: Jared Brennan Zac Smith Brandon Matera
Foll: Josh Fraser David Swallow Gary Ablett (c)
Int: Marc Lock Harley Bennell Dion Prestia
Coach: Guy McKenna
The Gold Coast debuted in Round 2 on 2 April 2011 against Carlton at the Gabba in front of a crowd of 27,914. The first five goals were scored by Carlton, before Charlie Dixon scored the first ever goal for the Gold Coast Suns. Carlton extended their lead at every break, finally winning the game by 119 points with the score of 7.10.52 - 26.15.171. Charlie Dixon was the major goal scorer for the Gold Coast with two. The following week the Western Bulldogs beat the Gold Coast by 71 points, although commentators noted signs of improvement.
In round 4 Gold Coast played the Melbourne Demons. It was a very promising start for the Suns but it was not enough as the Demons ran out 90 point winners. The Gold Coast Suns had their first AFL win on 23 April 2011, when they defeated Port Adelaide by 3 points at AAMI Stadium after they were trailing by a whopping 40 points late in the third quarter, with final scores 15.14 (104) to 15.11 (101). Brandon Matera was a standout performer booting 4 goals. Michael Rischitelli was the best on ground.
In round 6 against Essendon, they conceded the highest quarter time score in VFL/AFL history, being 15.4.94 to 0.1.1. They lost the game by 139 points, their biggest loss of the season until it was eclipsed in Round 20 when Geelong defeated them by 150 points. Despite this, Gold Coast won the second quarter.
In Round 7, Gold Coast bounced back and won their second game of the season against the Brisbane Lions in the inaugural QClash by 8 points. Jared Brennan was best on ground and won the Marcus Ashcroft Medal and Nathan Krakouer kicked 5 goals. The game established the highest pay TV audience ever for an AFL game, with a total of 354,745 viewers watching.
Round 10 saw the Suns play at their newly renovated Metricon Stadium for the first time against Geelong. The Suns shocked many when they led the then-undefeated Cats by 11 points at halftime, but switched off in the second half and lost by 11 goals. Further losses to West Coast, North Melbourne, Hawthorn, the Western Bulldogs (for a second time), Fremantle and Sydney followed before upsetting Richmond by 15 points in the first premiership match played in Cairns.
To date, the Suns' highest score ever was 18.16 (124) achieved in its Round 7 win over the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba. Their lowest score is 4.12 (36), in a 70-point defeat by the Sydney Swans at home, which is also their worst defeat at home.
Despite finishing their inaugural season with the wooden spoon, many have hailed the Gold Coast's debut season as a "success". The Suns won three games this season.
Gold Coast endured a horror pre-season in early 2012 which included a 13-point loss to fellow AFL newcomers Greater Western Sydney. Their solitary win in that time was a narrow win over Melbourne in the triangular round of the 2012 NAB Cup.
The home-and-away season did not begin well for the Suns either, losing its first round match against Adelaide by 69 points, its second round match against St Kilda by 92 points and its third round match against Essendon by 17 points. The last match was however an improvement from the first two rounds; at one stage, the Suns were pushing for a massive upset until a final quarter relapse proved costly. Gary Ablett junior recorded at least 40 possessions in each of the Suns' first three matches this season. The Suns finished the season second from last having won just 3 out of 22 home and away matches.
The undoubted highlight of the 2013 season for Gold Coast was Gary Ablett junior's Brownlow Medal triumph. It was Ablett's second Medal, his first having been won in 2009 when he played for Geelong. The Suns as a whole showed improved form this season winning 8 games to climb to fourteenth place on the ladder.
The improvement continued in 2014 with the Suns recording 10 wins, good enough for twelfth place on the premiership ladder, their best return to date. Carrara was becoming a difficult venue for visiting clubs with the Suns winning 7 of their 11 matches there for the season. The club's inaugural coach, Guy McKenna, was sacked at the end of the 2014 season.
Since 2014 the Suns' fortunes have declined somewhat with the team only narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon in 2015 before improving marginally the following year when they won six games to end up in 15th position. In 2017 they again won just half a dozen games which on this occasion was only good enough for 17th place on the 18 team premiership ladder which was where they again finished the following year. Worse was to follow as in 2019 the Suns slumped to last place before improving to 14th in 2020.