Local boy sees joy ahead at the Gold Coast Suns
JESSE Joyce can't wait to get stuck into pre-season training on the Gold Coast.
For all the lows the Suns have experienced this season, there's a lament the curtain is about to come down on 2018.
"It's always sad when a season comes to an end," he says.
"Especially when we haven't had too much success this year. It becomes a driver for the next season."
Following today's final game in Geelong, there will be the obligatory overseas sojourn, in Joyce's case to Bali with family, but then it'll be back to work.
"Working hard with the boys who are around the Coast and then straight back into it (the commencement of pre-season training) at the end of October," he says.
The young defender is determined to help the Suns achieve the success that may have once seemed inevitable but has failed to eventuate due to player departures, off-field dramas and poor coaching calls.
He's more invested than most, having grown up on the Gold Coast from age two after moving from Melbourne with his family and later graduating from the Suns' academy.
"I love the club," the Palm Beach product says. "I speak passionately about it whenever I'm asked about it.
"We've got such an opportunity ... and I just know if we make the most of it it's going to pay dividends for us and AFL footy in general in Queensland. It's going to be pretty special."
Being a "local boy", he knows the Coast footy community that he's grown up with is behind the club.
"It's interesting talking to them about their perspective," he says. "At the end of the day, they've got our back. It's just a little bit frustrating for them seeing what we're going through."
There's been just four wins from 21 games this year, and one from their past 16.
Now in his third year, Joyce is adamant they have "got the culture right" under Stuart Dew.
"The club's in a good place," Joyce says.
For the recently turned 21-year-old, it's about taking ownership on and off the field.
"With where the club's at, with where the list's at, it's really dependant on us young fellas," he says.
"We're working hard to try and become an integral part of the best 22 every week, and become leaders as quickly as we can."
A part of that was severing ties with Tom Lynch as soon as the co-captain announced he was leaving.
"He's such a great bloke. He's been a great player for us for along time and we respect where he's at," Joyce says.
"But as an AFL football club we had to draw the line if at the end of the day it meant we cut ties with Tom earlier than expected."
While the future of now lone captain Steven May remains up in the air, Joyce has backed feisty onballer Touk Miller as a future skipper.
"Touk has got captaincy written all over him," he says.
"Just his eagerness to always keep improving is inspiring to someone like me.
"I look forward to hopefully playing under him one day. He'd be a great captain."
Miller was again embroiled in a post-match skirmish with Lions skipper Dayne Zorko following last week's QClash.
Joyce, who collected a career-best 21 disposals in the four-point loss, said it was all part of the growing rivalry that was "pretty exciting for Queensland footy".
"There's a lot of pride on the line to protect our own," he says. "At the end of the day we just hate each other's guts."
Tempers are unlikely to flare as much when they play the Cats, and old club champion Gary Ablett.
The Suns would love to head into the off-season having caused the biggest upset of the year, but the Cats are $1.01 favourites and playing for a spot in the finals.
"The last time we played against him (Ablett) he played a cracker," Joyce said.
"It's going to be a job trying to quiet him down.
"We were able to do it against Sydney - there's no reason why we can't against Geelong."