NORTH MELBOURNE 4.9 8.13 14.22 17.25 (127)
GOLD COAST 2.5 9.8 10.12 12.16 (88)
A depleted Suns outfit did themselves proud on Saturday, showing the football world not to take them lightly, regardless of the cattle on the field. Although North Melbourne were workmanlike and did what was necessary to take home a comfortable 34 point win, there were plenty of positives for the Gold Coast to take from an away match missing three of their most important players, including superstar captain Gary Ablett.
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott was similar in his assessment of the game, praising the Suns’ effort. Although he commended his players for their effort after half-time (‘defensive tweaks’), most of his words went to the Suns.
In what was an inaccurate weekend for footy, North Melbourne were another victim of the goalkicking plague and could have set themselves up for a big lead at quarter time if it wasn’t for errant kicking. They had 6 more scoring shots and dominated most of the key stats around the ground.
Gold Coast could easily have capitulated in the second, but with North Melbourne 23 points up they swung the pendulum and slammed on 7 goals 3 behinds for the quarter, their best quarter ever in their short AFL history.
To do this without Ablett, important midfield cog Michael Rischatelli and damaging rebound defender Jarrod Harbrow was a big step forward for a young Suns outfit and will be a huge confidence booster.
Harley Bennell was one of the catalysts for the big second term, booting goals and using some sublime skills to generate passages of play. The other goal-kicking signs for the game were positive as well, with a couple of goals coming from the midfield and some solid signs up forward.
Charlie Dixon started in the ruck but was moved forward and booted 2.2 for the game. The Suns first ever AFL goalkicker was finally beginning to look like he belonged at the level again.
Veteran backman turned defensive forward Campbell Brown also kicked 2 after a terrible couple of games and KP prospect Sam Day showed a lot more focus than he had previous to also kick 2 for the game.
After Scott’s words at half-time, the Suns petrol tickets were clearly spent. Drew Petrie goaled to open both the third and fourth quarters and his battle with Matthew Warnock was one of the more intriguing ones of the game.
While on the topic of battles, the Swallow brothers went head to head in the midfield in an entertaining display. Andrew Swallow took home 31 disposals and the 4 points, but not before a heavy bump from Karmichael Hunt and his junior brother taking home 23 disposals and a goal.
David Swallow perhaps didn’t marshall the midfield as much as one would have liked, but when you’re being asked to step into Gary Ablett’s shoes you’re not going to be in for an easy gig.
The ruck competition was an interesting one for the game. Hamish McIntosh was one of the best for the Kangaroos, with 17 disposals, 40 hitouts, 5 tackles and a goal, and was ably assisted by Petrie when the needs called for it. The question this leaves for North is after another impressive solo performance by McIntosh, what will they do with Todd Goldstein?
The Suns nearly measured up to the task, with Dixon starting in the ruck and then doing relief work, and lead ruckman Zac Smith picked up 27 hitouts for the game, with Brennan doing some work when the ball came his way.
It was interesting in that although Smith was the lead ruckman, he seemed to need more assistance than usual. He was one of their shining lights last year and although the hitout count is solid enough, there wasn’t enough hits to advantage and work around the ground. He gathered a miserly 6 disposals and didn’t provide a presence up forward, which is not what fans have come to expect from the Suns big-man.
Jared Brennan had a bizarre game. It looked perfectly fine on paper, collecting the highest amount of possessions, marks, kicks and tackles for the side, but he was playing an all-too familiar patchy game where he faded in and out and let the opposition get away with too much. It wasn’t what the Suns needed from a veteran player.
Although their coach was coy on the topic, the Kangaroos can pat themselves on the back for a good second half. Petrie got into the game a lot more while Aaron Edwards continued his good start to the season up forward booting 3. Youngster Jamie Macmillan was one of the best for the Roos; he faded at points but looked like a complete natural as he gathered up 25 disposals and kicked a goal.
Another youngster, Kyal Horsley of the Suns, debuted and triumphed in the face of adversity. He used some impressive kicking skills and tackled hard around the contest. Expect to see him become a regular face at the Gold Coast if he keeps on the up and up.
In a game without 3 of the Suns best players and with exciting key Roos’ players Daniel Wells (tagged by Maverick Weller, held to 13 disposals) and Jack Ziebell (14 disposals) having off-days it’s hard to find much to wax poetic about apart from the fight shown by the Suns. The Kangaroos will be happy to move to 3-2 while the Suns will travel back to Metricon to face a Fremantle team fired up over a few twitter posts by Suns players deemed to be a bit demeaning.
3. Andrew Swallow
2. Ben Cunnington
1. Harley Bennell
North Melbourne: Petrie 3, Thomas 3, Edwards 3, Harper 2, Adams 2, McIntosh, Harvey, Cunnington, Macmillan
Gold Coast: Brown 2, Day 2, Bennell 2, Dixon 2, Illes, Lynch, Swallow, Russell
North Melbourne: Swallow, Macmillan, Atley, Cunnington, McIntosh, Bastinac
Gold Coast: Bennell, Horsley, Hunt, Weller, Swallow