It's just on 40 years now, with South Melbourne's move to Sydney, since the then-VFL took its first steps towards becoming a national competition. We've seen teams added to the mix from Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. They've enjoyed plenty of success, too, a dozen premierships now won by clubs outside Victoria. Which makes the exceptions to that tale stand out even more conspicuously. That ignominy, for more than a decade now, has been the lot of Gold Coast. Which is why the Suns' gradual emergence this season to a point they are now a serious finals contender is significant indeed. Only Gold Coast's Queensland stablemate Brisbane, during its difficult birth as the Bears in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has had it anywhere near as tough as the Suns; the main difference is that Gold Coast's pain has been largely self-inflicted. Some poor choices on the playing front, questionable appointments of personnel, and cultural baggage, has weighed the Suns down heavily, even with a steady stream of the finest young talent being sent their way. There's been just one flirtation with on-field success, a brief window in 2014 when, with Gary Ablett at the peak of his powers, Gold Coast was 9-6 and inside the top eight after 16 rounds. Ablett, however, injured his shoulder that same week, didn't play again that season, and Gold Coast's hopes went up in smoke. The Suns have really struggled since, winning just seven of 44 games in 2018-19, Stuart Dew's first two seasons as coach. But five wins and a draw from 17 in the COVID-impacted 2020 were some progress, which turned into seven victories last year. And now, at the halfway point of 2022, Gold Coast already has five wins under its belt. The Suns are just a game outside the eight, having won three of their past four, and with another likely victory coming up this week against North Melbourne and games to follow against Adelaide and Port Adelaide, are every chance to make it six wins from seven. It's Gold Coast's seemingly greater resilience, however, which has caught the eye as much as any win. One shocker against Brisbane aside, the Suns have never been any less than competitive this season, their biggest losing margin beyond the Lions' loss just 26 points. They've done it in a variety of circumstances, the past few weeks a good example, pushing the Western Bulldogs all the way in the blustery cold of Ballarat before demolishing Hawthorn in the steamy tropical heat of Darwin, as great a contrast in playing conditions as is possible. This week, it's back to Darwin again to take on the Roos. Gold Coast's pre-season loss of spearhead Ben King for the entire season with a serious knee injury was exactly the sort of setback which most of the football world assumed would end the Suns' hopes before we'd even got underway. But the Suns' recruiting of Carlton discard Levi Casboult and Richmond's Mabior Chol has proven inspired, the pair both averaging two goals per game. And a couple of more recent additions to the forward mix in Malcolm Rosas and Joel Jeffrey have offered some serious spark and x-factor Gold Coast had sorely lacked. They've been crucial add-ons to the already established star quality of Touk Miller, young guns Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, the warrior-like defence of Sam Collins and Charlie Ballard, and the leadership and nous of the likes of Jarrod Witts and Brandon Ellis. That's a roll call of reliability, the likes of which Gold Coast has never before boasted, even in that 2014 era, when the team's fortunes still essentially rose or fell on the back of one man, albeit one of the greatest handful of players the game has seen. It's grimly ironic for coach Dew that it's all starting to come together nicely, just as one of the greatest coaches in history, Alastair Clarkson, is looking for a new mission. It's hard to think the AFL, for whom its expansion child has always been a concern, wouldn't be salivating at the chance Clarkson might be prepared to tackle the competition's most difficult market to crack. In his fifth season in charge now, Dew's strike rate is a lowly 26 per cent. But the curve is trending up for a third year in a row. Given the constant battles the club has faced in building and maintaining a sustainable culture around its program, not to mention just hanging on to its talent, with rivals always looking at Gold Coast as a likely source of fruitful player raids, can anyone say categorically even the record of a proven coach like Clarkson would be a whole lot better? All the incumbent coach can do for now is keep the wins coming. A maiden finals appearance for Gold Coast in its 12th season in the AFL competition, would surely make him a lot safer. And more significantly, it would end, perhaps once and for all, the speculation about an entire football club's very existence.