Former Gold Coast Suns assistant coaches Matt Kennedy and Dean Solomon are starting a new gym over the border at Kingscliff called
Former Gold Coast Suns assistant coaches Matt Kennedy and Dean Solomon are starting a new gym over the border at Kingscliff called "The Gym at Salt". Picture Glenn Hampson

Dean Solomon details his next move in the AFL

The respected football figure has opened up for the first time about his sensational exit from the Suns, detailed his relationship with senior coach Stuart Dew and revealed his immediate and long term plans for the future.

Solomon, 40, is firmly on the radar of rival AFL clubs looking to enhance their football department by bringing in the man who came close to securing the Fremantle head coaching role in 2019.

A couple of the positions on offer include senior coaching roles, similar to the one he held as Dew's right-hand man at the Suns, while other assistant roles have also been tabled to his manager.

But before diving into anything else Solomon is focused on starting a new business with AFLQ Hall of Famer Matthew Kennedy, a former Suns strength and conditioning coach who most recently spent time in the club's welfare division.

The duo will launch The Gym at Salt on October 3 at Kingscliff, in Northern NSW, in what they hope becomes a complete wellness hub catering for all.

They will work closely with former Suns I.T expert Harrison Peucker, still on the hunt for another role in the AFL, and respected sports physiotherapist Victor Popov, who was used by the Brisbane Lions during its premiership three-peat between 2001 and 2003.

The Gym will have an altitude training room, boxing zone, function fitness zone, cardio area, sauna, magnesium bath and more.

Residents in the area will have access to the gym along with guests of the resort, including corporate groups who can work closely with Solomon and Kennedy in developing "a clear common purpose and the behavioural framework that has been developed by and agreed to by th team."

They will also be working in collaboration with Simon Fletcher from Leading Teams.

Solomon said he came up with the business idea before COVID hit and it was something that would still allow him to coach.

Dean Solomon pictured as interim Gold Coast Suns coach in 2017. Picture: AAP.
Dean Solomon pictured as interim Gold Coast Suns coach in 2017. Picture: AAP. DAVE HUNT

"We want people to feel, physically and mentally, in the best place on earth," Solomon said.

"If we can use our experience and really influence and help people then that it is ultimately what it is about.

"Those values of family, community and wellness are the absolute foundation of this business and why we exist".

"There is a big physical component but more important it's about that mental space as well.

"Everyone will be welcome. We want to create the best possible platform for all type of people, from male and female and beginners to professionals.

"It's been a tough time for everyone so we want them to help them be physically and mentally happy during this period and going forward."

Solmon said he would invest his energy into establishing The Gym before considering his coaching options in the AFL again.

"I'll take a breath for the next two to four weeks to get my head out of footy for a bit," Solomon said.

"There has been some interest from quite a few clubs who have tried to contact me or my manager directly.

"I'll park it for a bit and spend some time with my family. I haven't wanted too much detail about the interest and I'll assess the options in a month."

When it comes to their exit from the Suns, Kennedy said was a tough time for everyone involved.

"It was a really awkward time when we were stood down," Kennedy said.

"I have never not worked for a long period so I was climbing the walls. It was certainly uncomfortable for everyone.

"With the exodus of the character and competence of the people who are now gone, it will leave an enormous void in the footy program."

For Solomon, it was near midnight on his trip home from the club's Round 11 draw with Essendon on the Gold Coast when he got the first indication he may depart the club.

It came on the back of COVID forcing the reduction of football department salary caps by around $3 million.

"I was surprised when I was called in for a meeting to have a chat (with football manager Jon Haines). They suggested there was no role for me next year," Solomon said.

"I spent 10 years there. I was heavily invested in the future so that was a bit of a surprise to me that I was one of the coaches who wasn't going to go ahead on the journey.

"The playing group are a ripping group, there are some great characters there. They have some good times ahead and I would have loved to have been part of that.

"If someone said to me that when (inaugural Suns coach) Guy McKenna rang me and said I got the job that I'd have 10 years at the footy club that I would have taken it every day of the week so I'm grateful for that.

"I probably just didn't see it coming."

Solomon said he didn't get a detailed reason about why he was leaving or why other coaches remained outside the 2IC.

"We didn't get to that point. The decision was made due to COVID. In hindsight, if I had my time again I would have dug a bit deeper but it is what it is.

"It's a really tough time for so many people during this period, the reality is I'm pretty lucky compared to some."

Speculation mounted about a potential fracture in the relationship between Dew and Solomon.

Dew has publicly denied it and Solomon said there was also no angst on his end.

"We got on well. Dewy is a very good coach. His football brain is very sharp and I learnt things from him," Solomon said.

"That talk doesn't bother me. There was nothing from my side. I do wonder why (I left). I still had two more years on my contract. Who knows, Stuey came out and said publicly it was nothing so that is all we can go with I guess."

Solomon and the Suns agreed he would finish the season with the team but the scrutiny around his exit led to his decision to make the club's 63-point win over North Melbourne in Round 14 on August 30 his last.

It meant Solomon could only say his goodbyes in person to around half the list in what he detailed as an emotional farewell.

"At that stage there was a bit of media and in the end it's about the players," Solomon said.

"They didn't need it, the club didn't need it and I didn't need it as far as the negativity.

"It got to a point where it was becoming an anchor for everyone.

"It was hard saying goodbye. The players were amazing. They all lined up and shook my hand and gave me a hug. I have been blown away by the message from the players. That puts me at peace a bit, knowing I have had some impact on them.

"My philosophy with coaching was that it was more about the person than the player. The player comes second. If you help support and shape them to be great humans then the footy will flow on the back of that."

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