Gold Coast Suns AFLW coach David Lake with co-captain Leah Kaslar at Harrup Park this afternoon. Picture: Tony Martin
Gold Coast Suns AFLW coach David Lake with co-captain Leah Kaslar at Harrup Park this afternoon. Picture: Tony Martin

Leadership ‘pillars’ set Suns on path to success

WHEN a club welcomes 16 faces fresh to AFLW football and is itself new to the competition, the expectation is success will be a slow burn.

But the Gold Coast Suns’ rapid growth from Round 1 to now tells the tale of a club and system built to get the best out of itself.

When former Brisbane Lions skipper Leah Kaslar crossed to the Suns with a handful of teammates in the off-season, she could have been forgiven for thinking season one would be challenging.

But doubt is not in Kaslar’s design nor, she says, the experienced group of players hand-picked by David Lake and his coaching staff to build the first Gold Coast Suns AFLW team around.

“The leaders we have at the higher age end of the group have quite a broad experience and are quite different,” the Suns co-captain said.

“Sam Virgo has coached a lot of these (younger Suns players) at the academy and Queensland level – she’s already got a really good rapport with them, and I’ve coached alongside her for some of that.

“Then there’s the likes of Tiarna Ernst who has come from the Western Bulldogs – she’s an absolute powerhouse on the training track. She sets the benchmark with her standards in what she does.”

The Gold Coast Suns AFLW side training at Harrup Park this afternoon. Picture: Tony Martin
The Gold Coast Suns AFLW side training at Harrup Park this afternoon. Picture: Tony Martin

Add to that group midfielder Jamie Stanton – a two-time grand finalist with the Lions and member of North Melbourne’s inaugural AFLW team last season – and former Adelaide Crows vice-captain Sally Riley and the Suns, Kaslar says, have the “strong pillars” in place to help their young players flourish.

“Jamie has played at a couple of different clubs … she’s got that experience under a lot of different coaches and programs which she brings and she naturally coaches some of the younger players and is really good one-on-one with them.

“(Riley) really drives the culture and is someone everyone feels comfortable around. She sees the game quite differently to other people and gives a lot of insight into how to carry yourself.”

Mackay product Emma Pittman is another midfield leader who Kaslar says the younger players have great respect for.

“When you talk to the younger players and ask who they look up to, she’s the person they often talk about.

“She’s had some pretty active coaching roles helping out in the midfield.”