Here we go, the graveyard shift. However, this game looked far more interesting than some other contests.
On one hand you have North Melbourne. They are evaluating their list and already in preparation mode for next year. I must mention that they do have an extensive injury list, which has partially forced their hand, but can’t argue that they have been disappointing for large portions of this season.
Then you have Gold Coast, who have, at times, looked every bit of a finals side. They came into this game with very few injuries and looking to continue their promising season and remain a very outside chance for finals. More importantly for the Gold Coast, they needed to beat a team they should.
Now I’m going to give a bit of warning here. This review is going to focus a lot on the Suns. I’m trying to be more positive and frankly I couldn’t find anything much positive to say about North Melbourne. But anyway, let’s get into it.
The Game Stuff:
In the early stages of this game Gold Coast looked like world beaters, they just couldn’t hurt North Melbourne on the scoreboard. North Melbourne looked out of their depth. Costly turnovers and Gold Coast waltzing the footy down the ground with their opponents trailing. The only thing saving North was some relatively poor finishing from the Suns.
North Melbourne would steady late and be given a reprieve with a 50m penalty to Mason Wood, who almost made it two in a minute before doing a Malcolm Blight and kicking a goal through the points from short range. Make no mistake, the footy went where he wanted it to, he just kicked it the wrong side of the post.
In the end North Melbourne could’ve considered themselves unlucky being nine points down at quarter time.
Gold Coast would kick the first goal of the second quarter thanks to Ben King. North Melbourne would follow that up with a goal from Aaron Hall and by raising their pressure and hoarding the footy in their half for five minutes for no result. The Suns would then slam home the next two and threatened to blow the game apart. Mason Wood would steady the ship form long range after a somewhat questionable mark.
The Suns would eventually head into half time 25 points up on the back of 15 scoring shots to five. They would also have eight marks inside fifty, to three. It was a poor defensive half for the Kangaroos as they allowed the Suns 15 scoring shots form just 23 inside fifties. Considering Gold Coast were the worst in the competition in terms of efficiency going inside fifty, going at under a 30% conversion rate, that is unacceptable. Particularly so when you could argue that the defence is North Melbourne’s’ strongest asset.
The Suns would hold the Kangaroos Goalless in the third quarter but would kick a wasteful single goal and six behinds of their own. The Roos would win their share of the footy across defence but couldn’t translate it to any sort of effective forward movement.
The Suns would romp home in the last. They would kick four goals and five behinds whilst holding North Melbourne scoreless! North Melbourne would only kick three behinds for the entire second half.
The Best Stuff:
Tonight was the Izak Rankine show. This wasn’t flashy moments that everyone has seen watching other games. This was a class performance that reeked of maturity beyond his age and experience. The comparison that came to my mind was of Gary Ablett Junior. This was in the sense, that every time Rankine got the ball, his teammates’ eyes lit up in anticipation. They knew he would find someone. At times it seemed he had too much bloody time. But nonetheless, he would finish with 13 touches, a goal and a goal assist amongst his nine score involvements.
I wouldn’t say Ainsworth was Robin to Rankine’s Batman. I would say he was more like Superman to Rankine’s Batman. Ainsworth was in everything and more in this game. It seemed like every time the Suns crossed halfway, Ainsworth was receiving the footy. He probably didn’t reward himself enough on the scoreboard for his work. He finished with 23 disposals (only six contested), 11 marks, 15 score involvements and over 600 metres gained for his side. Absolutely ridiculous numbers playing as a half forward.
This man was a literal wall in defence tonight. Admittedly North weren’t giving the best of delivery for their forwards, but you’ve still got to be good enough. And Sam Collins was absolutely good enough. He had five intercept marks after seven minutes into the second quarter. Let’s be real, if Collins played for a Victorian team, he would be lauded in the same conversation as Weitering, Moore and Andrews. Collins would finish with eight intercept possessions and 100% efficiency from his ten disposals.
Launched at absolutely everything. He is just such a pure forward and a joy to watch. I have to admit, there is one thing Ben King does not do; he does not get out marked. He will fight and scrag and launch into his opponents’ body before he lets them get clean possession. I am certain his smaller forwards are letting him know every week how much they appreciate that, as all of Ainsworth, Sexton and Rankine benefitted at different stages. King should’ve absolutely had a career best game today and really robbed himself with some of his shots for goal. He would finish with two goals and four behinds, with three contested marks.
The Good Stuff:
This kid just seems like a quality player. I suppose you should expect that from number two draft pick. Lukosius operates with elite poise of half back and has the ability win one-on-ones he has absolutely no right to win. He had five intercept possessions in the end, to go along with thirteen disposals as he formed part of a rock-solid wall Suns defence.
I have included Wood in here against my better judgement. Wood at least showed something tonight. He let himself down at times, as he can do, but he definitely had the effort. I was very harsh on Wood a couple weeks ago, but tonight he showed he still has something left to add. I don’t think he’ll be at North next year, but he may just do enough to be offered a lifeline by another club. He kicked a couple goals and took a ripping mark that was somehow paid a mark despite it clearly hitting the deck on the way down.
Good return to the team. Kicked his four goals and looked dangerous. However, what would’ve made Stuart Dew happy is that he seemed to have dropped the “Kevin Bartlett” about him, in that he was actively looking for teammates instead of goals. There was a couple of moments in this game where Sexton got the footy and you would’ve expected him to wheel around and have a ping, particularly given the comfort the Suns were dispatching the ‘Roos with. However, instead he found a teammate or passed the footy or laid a block. It was a much more team-orientated Sexton, which make the Suns a much better team.
A solid performance from Anderson. 23 disposals, 400+ metres gained, seven score involvements, five inside 50’s and five clearances.
The inside bull. It was pointed out during the game by the commentary that Greenwood was perfect acquisition by the Suns. He provides support for Swallow and Witts in the middle as another big body to fight the hard in-tight contest and allow the likes of Anderson, Ellis, Rankine, and Ainsworth to get fed the footy out in space. He finished 16 contested possessions and seven clearances, both game-leading. A testament to hard man’s game.
Probably went under the radar, but it was another very good performance from Miller. Miller is another one of the more experienced crew for the Suns who must be absolutely licking his lips at the prospect of what the future holds. He just has to still be in the team when they fully deliver as it seems they’ve started that process already.
Really I could go through the entire Gold Coast team, but I’m just going to have to leave it there.
The Ugly Stuff:
A couple of moments to forget:
Just a couple really key moments stood out for me.
The first was a truly unforced error in the first quarter by Jy Simpkin. Simpkin would mark on the wing and take his time to spot up a teammate. I don’t know about you, but unless the ghost of Syd Barker was out there, it was to no one in particular. Simpkin simply lent back on a kick towards the corridor and Ben Ainsworth gladly received it and sent the ball forward to lead to the Suns second goal. A terrible start.
The second was a costly handball by Shaun Atley in the last. Fighting to keep the margin respectable, North were struggling to get the ball out of defence. Atley would get the ball while stationary and do one of those loopy handballs straight to a Suns player. The ball would be handballed a couple more times to finish with Anderson, and he would waltz around Aaron Hall and slot home another Suns goal.
Ben King would be right to feel a little robbed by the umpires as their inconsistency shone through again. They would pay the Mason Wood mark midway through the second quarter, which you could easily argue was very generous, in the same vein as Ablett Snr’s famous mark of the century. But five minutes later they would not pay an absolutely clear two-bite mark to Ben King, who was the only player to touch the footy. Every player on the ground stopped for about three seconds as the umpire kept screaming “play on” until they complied. Then, a few minutes later, Sam Day would be paid another contentious mark. Just pay all three next time. This was further compounded when King copped a raw deal again in the last quarter. I wonder what he said to the umps to make them hate him so much?
The Other Stuff:
The Suns Fans:
They’re real. You could hear the booing when Hall got the ball for the Kangaroos. That’s when your fan base has made it. When you make sure you let the betrayal of your club be known, no matter how valid the reasons for leaving or the amount of service given.
Tap it on:
The tap-on by Ben Ainsworth in the second quarter to set-up Alex Sexton’s first goal, was top class. It’s one of those moments that’s always associated with the best teams, such as the dominant Hawks and Tigers of late. Those little touches that help release a teammate in space. It was all class.
I reckon Rhyce Shaw would’ve been feeling a lot like Henry Winkler in “The Waterboy” early in the third quarter. You know that first scene where he’s watching the game footage? I’ paraphrasing here: “And here we see the Suns’ have the ball. Oops, they’ve dropped the ball. Oh, don’t worry, they’ve got plenty of time to pick it up and steady and find a teammates inside 50 before our players even know what’s going on”.
Now, Gold Coast addressed this in the last quarter but I just wanted to let you know that at three-quarter-time North Melbourne lead Gold Coast in disposals, disposal efficiency, inside 50’s, uncontested possessions, marks and tackles. They would finish not winning any of these stats due to a hapless last quarter, but to be leading all of those categories and not being in the contest, must be maddening for Rhyce Shaw.
One question will definitely be on Stuart Dew’s mind; just how good can these kids get? Anderson, King, Rankine, Ainsworth, Lukosius, and Rowell sitting on the side-lines, and I’m sure I’ve left a couple out. They finally seem to be in the position the AFL wanted them in in 2013. The Suns gear up for a massive Q-Clash against the Lions after their bye. Mouth-watering to say the least.
On to next week. There were costly moments in this game, but overall it just wasn’t your night. As I stated just above, North were in this game on paper. They just couldn’t make it happen on the field. There was some debate in a couple of my chats about whether or not North Melbourne are in a worse position than Adelaide moving forward. I firmly believe they are not. They have some quality players out, and even though they probably still wouldn’t be playing finals, I think the club is in a far better position on and off the field (in terms of morale, loyalty, happiness, etc) than the Crows.