The loss of Gary Ablett isn’t the reason for Gold Coast’s AFL freefall, according to coach Guy McKenna.
Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna staunchly refuses to admit Gary Ablett’s absence is a factor in his Suns’ worrying slide from finals reckoning.
But, for many despairing Coast fans and AFL pundits, Ablett’s season-ending injury looks to be the key factor.
Since the two-time Brownlow Medallist dislocated his shoulder against Collingwood three weeks ago, the Suns have lost to cellar-dwellers Western Bulldogs and Brisbane.
It takes their record without Ablett to 0-7 in four seasons.
Against the battling Lions, they weren’t just beaten. They were completely dominated in every aspect of the game for a quarter-and-a-half before eventually succumbing 14.16 (110) to 8.8 (56).
The QClash drubbing undid all the progress of 2014 when the expansion club – boasting a classy, super-quick midfield brigade – appeared bound for the finals at 7-2 and 9-6.
McKenna admitted the “insipid” 54-point defeat resembled losses of their first two seasons when outmuscled by more mature opponents.
But he denied Ablett’s unavailability had a mental impact on his team and pointed to their last stirring win, when their captain was injured, as evidence.
“We won a quarter and probably 10 minutes against Collingwood (without Ablett) with no rotations and backs to the wall,” McKenna said.
“It’s small data but it’s a quarter we won.”
While clueless about the lack of hunger early at the Gabba, McKenna blamed their inability to win the contested footy in the past two games.
He also admitted many bodies, including David Swallow, were “creaking” after 16 rounds of competition.
Stand-in captain Dion Prestia stressed they would not use the loss of their inspirational superstar as an excuse.
“Gazza is a very good player and gets the hard ball, but it’s time for the boys to step up,” Prestia told AFL.com.au.
“We’re not first-year players any more, so it’s time for us to step up.
“It’s a good lesson for the boys, a good wake-up call – we’re not as good as we thought we were a couple of weeks ago.”
The Suns now sit ninth (9-8) but also hold an inferior percentage (96) – meaning they need to win at least four of their last five matches against St Kilda, Carlton, Port Adelaide, Essendon and West Coast.
“Mathematically we can still make it,”McKenna said. “But you turn up and play like that, it makes it a very easy answer.”