Mark Duffield: Beware the rising Suns
Karmichael Hunt and Harley Bennell of the Suns celebrate a goal. Pic: Getty Images

Guy McKenna's official title might be senior coach of Gold Coast. But if speculation about him being set to seal a new two-year coaching deal is on the money, a more accurate description of his title might be sitting on a goldmine.

Gold Coast's gutsy seven-point loss to Fremantle at Metricon Stadium on Saturday is unlikely to prove to be a one-off. McKenna simply has too much quality at his disposal and it is now starting to emerge.

When you pitchfork Gary Ablett and Michael Rischitelli back into the line-up, clubs that were counting their wins at the start of the season when they saw two games against the Suns might want to have a rethink.

The Suns led Essendon at three-quarter time and were in front of Fremantle with minutes to go before the Dockers found a way to win.

Adelaide can count their lucky stars they played the Suns in round one as the Gold Coasters came off a flat pre-season and were looking for some direction and belief.

They seemingly have that now. At the very least they are going to be extremely dangerous at home and you would suspect they will eventually become increasingly competitive on the road.

They won't make the eight in 2012 but they may help shape it by taking points off would-be contenders.

Fremantle can thank their lucky stars and a fair bit of late grit for not becoming the first Metricon Stadium victims of McKenna's men.

For three quarters the Suns boasted the two most influential players on the ground. Rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt devastated the Dockers at clearances, running up a game-high six.

But the number of clearances tells only a fraction of the story. The nature of those clearances, hitting contests at speed and delivering decisive handballs to players in space, made Hunt a revelation.

Harley Bennell was one of several beneficiaries of Hunt's work and threatened to turn his possessions in space into devastation for Fremantle's defence.

Bennell's 37-touch, three-goal game rates up there with the likes of Chris Judd's five goals against Brisbane in 2003 for efforts by a second-year midfielder.

Bennell was the second player chosen by the Suns in the 2010 draft. If No.1 pick David Swallow is better than him, their midfield is going to be a sight to behold - and sooner than anyone thinks.

The list doesn't stop there. Dion Prestia offers the Suns inside grunt and strength and outside run. So does Sam Iles. Luke Russell won most of his ball on the outside but still contributed strongly, ran tirelessly and used the ball well.

Gold Coast's key-position stocks will take longer, and they may suffer some short-term pain because of the broken leg that will surely end Nathan Bock's season, but the talent is clearly there.

Sam Day, Charlie Dixon and Tom Lynch may be a year or two away from consistent football but they show more than glimpses.

Bennell, Swallow, Prestia, Day and Lynch are all still 19. Hunt, 25, and Swallow are producing high-level football week in and week out. In the past fortnight, Bennell has shown signs he is about to join them and you can expect others to come on-stream gradually as they close in on the 50-game mark over the next one to two years.

Fremantle will not count this as a great performance by any means. The Dockers have issues at stoppages without Nat Fyfe's courage and inside-ball handling.

They got smacked in that area against St Kilda when Fyfe didn't play and Aaron Sandilands did. They were well beaten in that area on Saturday when neither played.

They looked least vulnerable late in the game when Matthew Pavlich went into the middle and traded weight with Hunt. Pavlich came off a lethargic first half to be significant in the final result, as were hard-working forwards Chris Mayne and Matt de Boer.

What the Dockers can count from this though is four precious premiership points. That is what they flew to the Gold Coast to get and what they flew home with.

The West Australian

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