Suns’ northern fortress to help sink Saints
GOLD Coast co-captain David Swallow is hopeful Townsville's Riverway Stadium can become a club fortress as the Suns look to turn the tables on recent nemesis St Kilda.
Set to play the first AFL regular-season match in Townsville on Saturday, the Suns - who have lost their past two games against the Saints by a combined three points - are aiming to snap an eight-game losing streak.
On previous trips north the Suns have played at Cairns' Cazaly Stadium but Swallow said he and his teammates were looking forward to playing their first match for points in Townsville and "it would be great if we could" turn the stadium into a Suns' fortress.
"Being in Queensland you want to try and win those games, so (hopefully) it's somewhere we can come and win. It's a positive for us to form that partnership over the next few years," he said.
"We've been there (Townsville) a couple of times for pre-season games; we like to come up there, and growing the game in Queensland is part of it."
A foundation player and spiritual leader, co-captain Swallow has been through the tough times at the Suns.
The Suns have struggled in recent weeks, paying the price for the off-season exits of a host of stars including Tom Lynch (Richmond), Charlie Dixon (Port Adelaide), Steven May (Melbourne) and Jaeger O'Meara (Hawthorn), but Swallow has stayed loyal in a major boost for the club.
Central to a talented young list including Jack Martin, Brayden Fiorini, Lachie Weller, Touk Miller and high-end draft picks from the 2018 AFL Draft in Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine, Ben King, Swallow is confident the club is building a core for success.
"It's been difficult in the past with player retention, but we feel like we've got to create an environment where they don't want to leave, and if they do, it's part of the industry," Swallow said.
"We want to see our culture really strong and we're building to (that). We're confident these kids will stay.
Building that culture is central to the side's fortunes and while the Suns have "struggled" at times in 2019, they've been largely competitive under second-year coach, Stuart Dew.
"We've probably struggled at times with eight losses on the trot, but we've been a lot more competitive this year," Swallow said.
"We've been able to play a clear brand of footy which hopefully our fans have seen. We're still young, still building and looking for consistency, but we certainly feel like we have improved.
"We'll continue to work as hard."
Coming off a bye, the Saints will be smarting from a 70-point loss to Port Adelaide in China last Sunday week.
Two games clear of the 17th-placed Suns in 13th, Swallow sees the parallels between the sides' respective developments.
"They're a bit similar to us… they had a really strong start to the year and have probably waded a bit in their last month, but we'll be preparing for their best," Swallow said.