Recap of last season
The Suns started with dark news, as Ben King tore his ACL on the eve of the season. The Suns showed flashes in the first half of the year and made it to the midseason bye with an even ledger.
More grief struck, as Lachie Weller joined King in the ACL rehab group. As the season edged on, the Suns claimed big scalps like the Swans, Dockers, and Tigers (with a Noah Anderson goal) to keep themselves in the hunt for finals.
But in the end, the final six weeks were a disappointment for the Suns, unable to win more than two games and falling off the pace and away from the finals race again.
How they can improve
Last year, the Suns gave up the seventh most points in the competition. Even when the forward line was functioning, the defence leaked too many points to give the Suns the best chance to win.
While Sam Collins and Connor Budarick are budding stars, they need more support around them. Mac Andrew also showed flashes in his first season, but he is still a raw prospect.
Will Powell and Charlie Constable will face some internal pressure to start to step up and become lockdown defenders, and rookie draft pick Jake Stein looms as a potential cornerstone of the future.
If the Suns can manage to go from conceding 120.8 points per game, down to the 105-108 mark, it will help them stay in more games, especially in crunch time.
IN: Jed Anderson (pre-season supplemental selection period), Tom Berry (trade, Brisbane), Connor Blakely (Rookie Draft), Bailey Humphrey (No.6 draft pick), Lloyd Johnston (category B rookie), Ben Long (trade, St Kilda), Brodie McLaughlin (pre-season supplemental selection period), Jake Stein (Rookie Draft)
OUT: Jack Bowes (trade, Geelong), Matt Conroy (delisted), Josh Corbett (trade, Fremantle), Jez McLennan (delisted), Oleg Markov (delisted), Patrick Murtagh (delisted), Rhys Nicholls (delisted), Izak Rankine (trade, Adelaide), Rory Thompson (retired)
The Sun's forward line was imposing last year, with Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult giving teams plenty of headaches. This year, Ben King is back, meaning that each of those players draws a lesser defender, and King, the rising superstar will be the focal point in attack.
Even with the loss of Izak Rankine, the Suns have strength at the foot of the pack, with new additions like Ben Long and Bailey Humphrey to complement Jack Lukosius, Ben Ainsworth and Brayden Fiorini.
The Suns have plenty of firepowers, and if they can harness that regularly, it will keep them in games deep into the season.
The ruck department is not a true weakness for the Suns, as Jarrod Witts has proven capable of handling the ruck load by himself and doing an admirable job in the process. Behind him though, ruck depth is thin. Casboult and Chol were supporting pinch hitters last year.
Ned Moyle is nominally the next ruck-up if there is a problem for Witts, but Moyle has not played in his first two seasons at the club and is still just 21 years old. If Witts goes down, it puts huge pressure on Moyle to keep the service up for the Sun's midfield.
Joel Jeffrey was nominated as a Rising Star in Round 10 last season, during Sir Doug Nicholls's Round. The young forward kicked five goals in his breakout performance, including one that was nominated for Goal of the Year.
After nine matches and ten goals across his first two years, Jeffrey has had another preseason under his belt and will be a chance to use his electric speed and silky skills this season. Look for him to make Izak Rankine's vacated spot his own, and seal his place in the Suns' forward line for the future this year.
Mac Andrew was another player in consideration, but with his club-imposed suspension, and a slow start to the pre-season, Jeffrey has jumped him as a player likely to stamp his authority this year.
This is the year it all comes together, as the Suns can build on a promising year last year. With Stuart Dew's system now well and truly in place, and rising midfielders like Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell in support of Brownlow Medal fancy Touk Miller, the Suns have an engine room built to compete with anyone.
With a rejuvenated forward line, the Suns will be able to put teams to the sword, and the outside ball users have improved their two-way running to help support the defensive group.
This is the year it finally happens, and the Suns make their way into finals for the first time. A history-making year is ahead under Stuart Dew, as this team comes of age this year.
Ladder prediction: 8th
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