Down near the bottom in the Toyota 2017 AFL Premiership Competition, the Gold Coast Suns are optimistic that 2018 will give Queenslanders some hope that Australian Rules footy belongs in the north.

Gold Coast has now gone by the Brisbane Lions for the youngest list in the league. Their average age is just over 23 years and saying goodbye to Gary Ablett probably accounts for several years of that.

With five first-round draft picks over the past two years, the Suns are trying to build a list where youth will be served and it is time for those youngsters to step up. They also lured midfielder Lachie Weller from Fremantle during the trade period. He will still be 21 when the 2018 AFL season starts and his figures from 2016 and 2017 would seem to indicate that he could add some solidity to the Suns’ middle.

Coach Stuart Dew no has options that were previously lacking. He can try a little of this and a little of that, adding some of the new with some of the established to find his best combinations.

Players such as Jack Scrimshaw, Will Brodie, Jack Bowes and Ben Ainsworth will be beyond their rookie seasons and hopefully ready to grow moving forward. They were all inside the top 10 in the 2016 draft and had just 31 games between them last season, so one thing Dew will be interested in seeing is if they can be counted on to go the full 22, or at least above 15 games.

With the 19th pick of this year’s draft, the Suns took Will Powell and Chris Ballard at pick 42 is one they feel should be able to go straight to the seniors.

There are a few seasoned players, such as Tom Lynch and Steven May, who are sharing the captaincy. Michael Rischitelli, Jarrod Harbow and Michael Barlow will supply some experiences.

Barlow is looking to return from a broken leg last June, May showed himself to be one of the best key defenders and Ainsworth may receive a look as a rising star.