Suns secure more elite talent - but that's the easy part

Gold Coast's No. 1 pick Matthew Rowell. Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

It was the AFL world's worst kept secret, so much so that eventual No. 1 draft pick Matt Rowell knew he'd be a Gold Coast Sun last Thursday.

It was also a formality that one of his best mates, Noah Anderson, would be taken at pick No. 2. Those picks, as well as a live trade with Carlton which resulted in draft slider Sam Flanders also being recruited with pick No. 11 means that for the second consecutive year, a 'big three' of the nation's best junior talent is heading north.

Following 2018's acquisitions of pick No. 2 Jack Lukosius, No. 3 Izak Rankine and No. 6 Ben King, the Suns have drafted a core of talent that would make the Curry, Durant era Golden State Warriors blush.

In fact, when Gold Coast trotted out their three new picks, closely followed by Lukosius, Rankine and King for a round of photos, it was a sight to behold - something that hasn't really been said about the Suns, ever.

For the first time since the club's inception, too, it seems the club's culture is changing from a Queensland holiday city, or pit stop of sorts, to one which takes the commitment of its younger players seriously. In rather quick succession at the back end of this year, the Suns resigned its 2018 trio. First it was Rankine in July, through until the end of 2022, then it was King in October, followed by Lukosius most recently last week.

It's part of a 'pact' of sorts to stick by the struggling club, in a hope to turn around a footy culture which has been much maligned for many years. The Suns have now also laid the foundations for their one-two combo of Rowell and Anderson to follow in those footsteps, seemingly emulating the widely successful 'draft mates' strategy which the Brisbane Lions have implemented so well over the past five or so years.

It's also no secret why last year's trio was brought down to Melbourne for the draft. One would expect they'll already be in their wide-eyed new draftees' ears, forming bonds and common interests as a way to help them transition into the club as smoothly as possible.

But it doesn't seem to be an uphill battle for the Suns to keep Rowell and Anderson both together on the Gold Coast. The Suns' newest draft picks understand the need to buy into a culture shift initiated by Lukosius, Rankine and King - after all, they've realistically had months to mentally prepare for the move.

Rowell, an accumulator and powerful midfielder who has great football nous, said his family had offered wonderful support throughout the year and throughout the talk of a move north. He said the fact that Anderson -- a powerful mid-forward who ESPN draft expert Chris Doerre described as a "match winner who breaks games open in the matter of minutes" -- would be joining him is a big bonus and an opportunity not all juniors got.

"It's just awesome - [Anderson is] my best mate, so to share this journey with him and to play up on the the Gold Coast with him is great," he said after being drafted.

"There will be expectation and a bit of pressure but I think pressure's a privilege and I've just got to put my head down and work hard from here."

Of course it's not just down to a few high-profile juniors to resurrect the club some have described as a sinking ship, but Stuart Dew and recruiting manager Kall Burns are making smart business decisions. Drafting mates, be they Lukosius and Rankine or Rowell and Anderson, makes sense both on and off the field, while having emerging leader like last year's trio recommit for at least a further three years is an encouraging sign.

The pieces are falling into place, but one of the greatest question marks remains player development; can Dew and his team harness the promise of six of the country's most talented youngsters to turn things around?

The AFL has thrown all manner of concessions, priorities and cash at the flailing club and put simply, if the Suns can't convert these picks into success, it might again be on life support.

The best of the best junior talent is through the door, so let's see what this beleaguered club has in it.