The Gold Coast Suns went two from two in the pre-season with their second win coming at the expense of the Adelaide Crows.

In a contest that saw the Suns as the clearly better side for four quarters, the Crows were never far away thanks to a couple of bursts through the centre that ended up in delivery to an open forward line and goals.

That would be the take away for the Crows, whilst the Suns’ ability to gang tackle and hit repeated contests hard would be something for Stewie Dew and his staff to smile about.

Let’s check out some of the standouts in this one.

 

THE CAPTAIN

It’s about time people started giving David Swallow his due. When all others ran away, he stayed. When the southern clubs came calling, he remained. And now as the Suns start to shine, it will be Swallow at the helm, with Jarrod Witts, guiding them on their rise.

Swallow looks fit, and for once there is no tape on his shoulders or legs as he runs around out there. If anyone deserves a completely injury-free run at 2020, it’s him.

In a real captain’s knock, Swallow picked up the lazy 33 touches, lay five tackles and had five clearances. He is a workhorse for this team – his team – and the kind of captain the Suns will rally behind.

He leads by example, will throw himself in to win the hardball without a hint of reluctance, and is one of the most underrated players in the comp.

 

JUST WHAT CAN DARCY MACPHERSON BE IN 2020?

Back to back 30+ disposal games, and another ten score involvements in this game… what is the ceiling for Darcy MacPherson in 2020?

He looks like the kind of player ready to explode (that’d be messy) and force people to take notice of both his game, and his team.

There is an element of antagonism to the game of MacPherson; one that will simply not allow anyone to attempt to stand over him. Last season I watched him stand up to players on the other teams when the Suns were getting a belting. It was as though they were a yard full of broken horses, but MacPherson remained defiant, and he refused to be like the others. I love that about him.

He gets under people’s skin, works his ass off and is getting results. The Suns have got an absolute beauty, here. How did the western Bulldogs allow him to slip from their grasp?

 

MATT CROUCH USES THE BALL WELL

So, Matt Crouch had 27 touches in this one, and yes, there have been games where he has had a tonne more.

But I am not sure I’ve seen him so deliberate in attempting to go forward as often as he did in this one.

Look, I’ve been pretty critical of Crouch in the past, as I reckon his instinct is to look sideways or backwards, but in this game he made a concerted effort to look forward and hit options to the advantage of his team. He did that, and was still able to travel at 85% efficiency – this is the version of Matt Crouch the Adelaide Crows need this season.

Hell, even I can make 30 metre kicks backwards – Crouch is one of the better decision-makers under pressure in the league, and I was really pleased to see him trusting his skills in this one.

Let’s hope he doesn’t regress when the real heat goes on in a couple of weeks.

 

WELLER’S PACE

People are starting to take notice. Some are putting it down to his appearance in the Bushfire relief game and the way he was able to use his pace to create in that game.

Others know better, and are aware that despite the Gold Coast having a terrible 2019, Lachie Weller played some wonderful footy last season.

In this game, he opened more eyes, as his blistering speed, particularly over the first ten metres, managed to put considerable distance between himself and his opponent on several occasions.

Not only did he hit the ground running, he also made things happen. At 55% efficiency, you may be forgiven for thinking he hacked the footy, but some of his pulled kicks were actually fantastic, and showed tremendous vision. The Suns have several players that have the capacity to have break out years in 2020. If you’re compiling a list of those, you’d better have Lachie Weller’s name on it.

 

TALIA DOMINANT IN DEFENSIVE 50

Do you think Peter Wright may have had a word to Stuart Dew at three-quarter time and asked him to get him the hell out of defensive 50?

He may have… I would have, because Daniel Talia owns defensive 50 and if you’re in there opposed to him, you’re in for a looooong game.

Wright found that out the hard way, and it was only when he started moving further up the ground that he got his hands on the footy. You see, intelligent players and intelligent teams know where their opponents like to play footy, and they know how to exploit weaknesses. That it took until three-quarter time for Dew to move Wright up the field… I don’t know what that says. Maybe he just wanted to see Wright fight to overcome the absolute bath he was getting from Talia?

In my notes, around halfway through the third quarter, Wright had touched the ball one – a hurried handball. Daniel Talia was his master, and would almost have to be considered for votes in this one. His efforts may have played Peter Wright out of a Round One spot in this team.

 

AINSWORTH AND BRODIE – ONES TO WATCH

I can’t tell which one of these two I am more excited to watch in 2020.

I’ve been wondering who Will Brodie reminds me of for weeks now. I’ve settled on a combination of Nigel Lappin and Jarrad Brennan… the good Jarrad Brennan, not the lazy one. He has those sloped shoulders and hunched running style, but I love his desperation, and actually feel pleased when I see one of his lunging attempts to disrupt things pay off with a turnover to the Suns.

As for Ainsworth, injury has robbed us of seeing what he is capable of, but as we enter the 2020 season, he appears ready to make this his season. He finished with 1.2 from 18 disposals but it was the way he attacked the contest overall the was most impressive.

Ainsworth and Brodie both have a bit of Mongrel in them, and when you throw them into the team alongside DMac, Swallow and Hugh Greenwood, you’re starting to see a team who don’t just lay down and let teams walk all over them.

The Suns will be better this season – how much better depends on the output and consistency of players like Ainsworth and Brodie.

 

NO SEX FOR A FEW WEEKS

No, it’s not a headline to describe Joe Ganino’s outlook for the next little bit after visiting the GP…

Alex Sexton is now in serious doubt for Round One after appearing to pull a hamstring in the third quarter. Sexton has looked dangerous as usual, using his body to win both the footy and the favour of the umpires, and was sitting on two goals when he pulled up short as he chased his opponent.

Initially, I thought it may have been a calf (I’m a calf muscle injury specialist) but footage from the dressing rooms indicated a right hamstring injury.

This is a huge blow to the Suns. Sexton has been their most consistent forward and is one of those blokes who just consistently finds himself in the right place at the right time. They have some talent to come back into the side, and whilst you’d hate to put pressure on the bloke, what better way to induct Izak Rankine into the fold than by handing him the keys to the role sexton has been playing for Gold Coast.

My preference would be to have him back in time for Round One, but you don’t play around with hamstrings.

 

TEX IN THE RUCK?

So, how did this work?

Look, it wasn’t terrible, and there is definite potential there for Walker to have a big impact when close to goal, as we saw when he used his strength to move Zac Smith out of the way, take clean possession and snap a goal. Around the ground, however, Tex wasn’t exactly prolific, and will need to impact the play more if he is following the footy around.

The best forward in the league at taking forward 50 ruck stoppages is Tom Hawkins, who manages to kick a goal or create an opportunity for his rovers around twice per game. That is what Tex should be looking to emulate. He had as many possessions as he did hitouts in this game (six) and when the game was on the line, late in the last quarter, Fisher McAsey was attacking the ball with two hands in packs.

Tex went with one.

Go back, check it out… just over a minute to go and there he is, throwing one hand up at the incoming long ball. I know it is only the Marsh Series, but this is exactly the sort of thing people have criticised him for over a number of years. Disappointing.

 

BRODIE BACK TO HIS BEST?

A wonderful effort from Brodie Smith in this one, using his run and carry to keep the Crows afloat. He led the game in metres gained, and was the only player to break the 600-metre barrier.

Whilst he did have nine turnovers, you would put that down to a well-structured Gold Coast defence and midfield getting back to cut off his forward thrusts.

With a few names disappearing from the Adelaide Crows this off-season, Smith looks to be cherry ripe to take his spot as a permanent midfielder. Whilst he proved in this one he can find the ball with ease, I reckon he had better make some small adjustments to his defensive game as well, as he often found himself opposite David Swallow or Will Brodie, and they didn’t exactly miss out on touches either.

Smith laid just one tackle for the game, with Riley O’Brien and Jack Bowes the only other players to collect 20+ touches and land one tackle in the game.

 

THE DESK

Great to see Rory Laird play the entire game across half-back. After taking a week to find his feet back there, he was back to his best, notching a game-high 16 intercept possessions as he zoned off to sit in the hole and collect anything even remotely resembling an errant kick forward.

Laird was the best rebounding defender in the game in 2018, and held together an Adelaide team that was falling apart in every other aspect. If he can re-assert himself as a force in 2020, the Crows will start breathing easier.

His role was somewhat compromised in 2019 as he seemed to take a back seat to both Wayne Milera and Brodie Smith at times, and whilst Milera will spend a bit of time back there with him again this season, if today’s game is any indication, Smith will move to the midfield, and give Laird the freedom he needs to be great again.

Might be good odds for All-Australian selection?

 

QUICK BITS

So, my man Fog likes a good physical confrontation, doesn’t he? You know, there are a lot of people who seem to dislike the physical aspect of our sport. To those people, I say… screw you.

Darcy Fogarty did not have a huge influence on this game, but the physical stuff… I loved it.

Check out Hugh Greenwood – quiet night with 16 touches, right? 13 of them were contested, and six of them were clearances. I’ll say it again – EXACTLY the kind of player Gold Coast needed. Absolutely wonderful pick-up.

The stats say Bryce Gibbs ran at 80% efficiency in this game from his 25 touches. He looked shaky as hell in the first quarter, and two of his turnovers exiting defensive 50 led directly to Gold Coast scoring opportunities. I do not trust him at the moment.

Maybe I am starting to be turned around on Jack Lukosius – some of his field kicking in this one was beautiful.

Fisher McAsey looked good in this one, but whilst the Crows played him 87% of game time, the Suns were far more careful with their kids, playing Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson 41% and 42% respectively.

Look, I have another game to do tonight (Hawks v Dees) so I am going to leave it there.

Nice to see the Suns playing well, but there were passages where the Crows looked very dangerous through the middle. Don’t throw out your memberships just yet, Adelaide fans… even the online “We Fly As One” memberships might be worth hanging onto.