I thought this was going to be a good game. Gold Coast had their tails up after a stirring win over and undermanned West Coast in Perth in Round One, which, despite the Eagles’ missing players, is never an easy win.

Melbourne completed their premiership celebration with a comfortable win over the Western Bulldogs in a game that eerily matched their Grand Final match-up, at times.

Melbourne were the deserved favourite, but I (Much like fellow Mongrel and resident Gold Coast supporter Brett Hodgson) felt like Gold Coast matched up pretty well on the Demons. Witts V Gawn. Rowell V Oliver. Miller V Petracca. There were contests where Gold Coast could look to hold their own against Melbourne’s elite. The there was also the fact that the Suns were playing at home. A warm March night in Queensland… who knows? Melbourne might just be off by 5% and suddenly you’re looking at a big upset.

The Suns seemed to relish the opportunity to take on the reigning premiers on their home deck. Displaying no signs of intimidation or nerve under the Melbourne pressure. They ran the ball right at the Demons and tried to link up with handball through the middle.

The issue with trying to handball your way through pressure, is that if you turn it over, you get burnt the other way. The Demons settled into the match once they realised the Gold Coast were right up for the challenge. I guess this is what Melbourne needs to start getting used to; being the team that everyone brings their best for. That’s what happens when you’re the reigning champs. And Melbourne reminded the Suns that they are, in fact, still the benchmark of the competition, with some clinical plays in the second quarter that made the game look far easier than it was.

It was the little things that continued to be the difference in this game. Gold Coast did so much right but fell down going inside fifty. There were multiple occasions when the Suns were running open through the centre looking for a target, but unless Casboult was there, there was very little to kick to. And then there was other times where they simply blazed and missed short hit-up targets and rewarded the Melbourne defenders for dropping off them, as they intercepted the long-ball. The perfect example of this was Alex Davies ignoring Lukosius on his own just inside the Suns forward fifty and instead bombing it long to a three-on-one in Melbourne’s favour. Then at the other end, just a few minutes later, Graham misjudged a spoil coming third man in, the ball ended up bouncing back towards the centre off of Witt’s head, and Pickett walked through two tacklers to snap a ridiculous goal from the boundary.

The. Little. Things.

Next thing you know Melbourne has opened the game up to a 22 point lead going into the last quarter, when really, the game should’ve been much closer.

One thing I’ve learned about this Gold Coast team, is that they’re not going to be easy beats anymore. In both games so far this year their opposition has kicked either six out of seven goals, or five out of six, and been in front by more than 12 points, and then they have responded. That is a sign of a maturing team.

Further to this point, the Suns held the Demons goalless in the final term. Yes they didn’t mange to catch them and Melbourne may have relaxed a little late once they knew they had done enough, but this is a Melbourne team known for putting big numbers on teams late in games, and the Suns never let them break free. They kept them close, but just not close enough.

Now lets get into the stuff that caught my eye:

 

Christian Petracca

This man cannot be tackled. Must be nice. Just enters every contest thinking he is going to bust through anything the opposition throws at him. Not only does this demoralise opponents, and actually influence the umpires adjudicating the game, but it forces other players to come in who are then unable apply pressure on any subsequent possessions.

Petracca delivered just a regular, run-of-the-mill best-on-ground performance in this game. A personal best 40 disposals (17 contested) and over 700 metres gained. oh, and a ridiculous 14 inside fifties. Unfortunately, he didn’t reward himself with a couple of goals, instead kicking two behinds from his two shots, but that was really his only blemish.

 

Touk Miller

The workhorse of the Gold Coast team. Miller feasted early as he played a sweeper role and cleaned up across the defensive side of the midfield on his way to a staggering 17 first-quarter disposals. He was never going to maintain that output, but he needed others to step up beside him. Some did, but others didn’t. However, you will always find Miller still working his backside off late in games, as he burns opponents through his sheer will.

This was perfectly showcased in a possession chain late in the game as Miller worked up the ground and got the ball out to Casboult, then run on and received the next kick form Casboult, kept running and delivered perfectly inside fifty to a teammate. No one could go with him. 34 disposals (16 contested), nine clearances, seven tackles, nine inside fifty’s, seven rebound fifty’s and almost 950 metres gained! Talk about a complete game…

 

Jake Bowey

Just when you think you have the Demons worked out, up jumps another player to make sure you know their name. Jake Bowey was that player in this game. What a display from the eighth gamer, and a high chance for the round two NAB Rising Star nomination, I would wager. Bowey came from nowhere to play in Demon’s premiership last year, in just his seventh game. It looks like he is taking the confidence of that run into 2022.

Coming off half back for the Demons, Bowey looked more like Corey Enright than a player so early in his career, as he cleaned up any loose ball spilling out from the Suns midfielders, who were feeling the pressure from their opponents. He controlled the flow of the ball through his area of the ground, his poise and judgement of the footy a highlight, particularly in the contest as he consistently outpointed Suns players and found teammates with a releasing disposal. Bowey’s 34 disposals (18 contested), 16 intercept possessions, seven rebound fifties and 570 metres gained are elite numbers that showcase just how deep this Melbourne team bats in terms of talent.

 

Noah Anderson

Anderson was great in this game and more than held his own against the Demons’ star midfield. This is particularly encouraging for him as Rowell’s output fluctuated throughout the game, as he found it very difficult after quarter time. Anderson’s two goals were particularly promising. Firstly, in the second quarter he received a brilliant tap from Mabior Chol at the centre bounce and sent the ball inside fifty from the back of the centre circle. Then, as the play unfolded, he followed up his play, got the ball back, sidestepped a Demon and kicked truly to get the Suns back within a goal and turn the games momentum.

The second was probably even better as during the last quarter, as the Suns tried to keep themselves in the game. Anderson sharked the ball from a forward stoppage ruck tap and snapped off less than one step as he was already being tackled by Jack Viney.

 

Clayton Oliver

I hate to brush over stars but what more can be said about Oliver? 34 disposals (18 contested), 13 clearances, 520+ metres gained and a brilliant goal from a forward stoppage. Yep, Petracca and Oliver really just showed Miller and Rowell why they’re the best one-two punch in the AFL. Particularly Rowell, who faded after quarter time.

 

Marbior Chol:

Chol had a second quarter purple patch that livened the game up, with a big pack mark and set shot goal. Then he attended multiple ruck contest where he outpointed Gawn and Jackson to get hit outs to advantage. It’s amazing what a little bit of confidence can do for a player’s game. He then was robbed of a contender for mark of the round late in the quarter. He doesn’t sustain the effort for entire games, but there is plenty there for Suns fans to get excited about, even if he looks a bit lethargic at times during games.

 

Luke Jackson:

People are probably sick of pundits talking about how good this kid is going to be. I’m going to tell you how good he currently is. His left foot kick inside fifty to Max Gawn for the Demons first goal of the match, deep into the first quarter was sublime. He then followed that up with a masterful forward ruck contest, where he saw the opportunity to take the ball out of the ruck and snap at goal, himself.

Jackson sensed that Witts was down on his haunches, having just tracked Max Gawn down into the forward line leading up to that stoppage. He started behind him, ran around him, jumped up and grabbed the ball, landed, took a step and then snapped truly on his left. I’ll even say he that he saw no one was on the goal line and knew he didn’t have to kick above anyone. That’s how good that play was.

 

Sam Collins

Collins can definitely hold his head high in this game. Matched up on Ben Brown who the commentators wanted to anoint as a Coleman medallist in waiting. Well, not if Sam Collins has anything to say about it. After kicking a goal early, Collins must’ve had one of the coaches inform him of what was said on the commentary at half time, because he absolutely dominated Brown after halftime, restricting him to a single disposal and no impact on the contest. Nothing was getting past that very intimidating moustache and mullet that combined the two best looks of the great Freddie Mercury. Someone needs to update his AFL photo and Wikipedia page, because they are not doing him justice.

Anyway, back to his game. Collins finished with 16 one-percenters and nine intercepts, which is a shame as he deserved a Mongrel defensive double-double, as he effectively became a brick wall against the Melbourne team, working in tandem with his valuable deputies in Ballard and Graham.

 

Ed Langdon

I wonder what the MRO will make of Langdon’s late tackle over the boundary line on Sun Jeremy Sharp, late in the second quarter. There is no way to argue Langdon didn’t know the play was dead – multiple whistles had been blown. It was rightfully paid a free kick to Sharp, but I just wonder if Langdon might be a little lighter in the wallet in a few days’ time?

You can’t predict these things with the way the MRO and Tribunal system is currently working. Could he cop a fine, a week, or absolutely nothing, as this stuff happens in footy sometimes? Your guess is as good as mine. The same goes for the Viney bump later in the game. In years gone by I would confidently say there would be no issue, but at the moment, I’m not betting the house on anything that the MRO and tribunal are looking at.

Also, another week. Another game with 100% time-on-ground for Ed Langdon on the god damn wing!!! This guy is just superhuman in terms of his aerobic, anaerobic, claustrophobic and any other type of phobic there is. He covered 16.7km in this game with 3.7 classed as travelling at high speed. With. No. Rest. I will give kudos to Jeremy Sharp though, who did stick with Langdon for the majority of the game. Learn from him Jeremy. There is a lot of unrewarded running out there.

 

Alex Davies:

I reckon Stewart Dew will have the tape out for Davies this week. He is a very promising young talent and his first two games this year have been really good, but, like most inexperienced players, there’s a learning curve.

With about 1:50 left in the second quarter a ball spilled out the front of a pack from a ball on the edge of the Suns defensive fifty. Davies had the chance to attack the footy and get it at the point of its bounce but waited for that bounce, I’m unsure if it’s just fatigue, as it was late in the quarter, or because Jordon for Melbourne was coming the other way, but he didn’t give it his full effort when the ball was his to win. Unfortunately for him it didn’t bounce kindly and in swooped Christian Petracca, who burst through the congestion, almost inviting contact with the way he moves and delivered the ball deep inside fifty to McDonald for a simple goal.

But I do reiterate, this was one of very few blemishes I could find in Davies impressive game. This kid is an absolute jet.

 

Dwayne Russell

Commentators are often maligned, but Dwayne Russell had a good thirty seconds in the third quarter, channelling his inner Dennis Cometti. First when Sparrow was stopped in his tracks by a crunching tackle with “Sparrow Dumped. Ran into the Windscreen” and then following that contest when a high ball was kicked into Melbourne forward line and Pickett flew for a screamer. “Higher, Higher, Kysaiah.”. He then followed this up with five minutes to play in the last quarter when Fiorini was hit hard by Rivers in a contest on a wing with “Fiorini. He had Rivers to cross”.

I will happily say that Dwayne is not my favourite commentator but if Cometti had’ve mentioned those little gems, he would be heralded as a doyen of his craft, that he rightly is. Very nice Dwayne. More of it, please.

 

Levi Casboult

Really good game from Casboult. The one thing you’ve usually bene able to bank on with Casboult is his competitiveness in the air and the ability to split a pack and take a couple contested grabs. That’s exactly what he did in this game. He provided a consistent target for the Suns. Matched up mostly on Steven May, Casboult more than held his own. Nine marks, three of them contested and four of them inside fifty. They don’t sound like huge numbers, but when you ‘re against one of the two best key defenders in the AFL that’s a handy return. They just needed two of him out there.

 

Witts V Gawn

This match-up delivered on the hype. Gawn is the benchmark for ruckmen in the AFL and I fully expect Witts to enter that upper echelon of ruck men this season as he returns from an ACL. This game all but confirmed that, as Witts matched Gawn in effectively every area. Both big men played a key role for their side in a split-points decision.

 

Powell Vs Pickett

This was a great match-up. I would give the decision to Powell based on the entirety of the game and his ability to be a launching pad for the Suns’ possession chains, but late int eh third quarter when the game was up for grabs, it was Pickett who jumped up and snatched it for the Demons.

 

Angus Brayshaw

Bloody good effort to keep going after that big hit in the second quarter. Going backwards with the ball, he was collected very heavily, and very fairly, by Will Powell. Brayshaw then understandably went to the bench to catch his breath, but needed to return to the field only moments later when a teammate had to leave the field for another injury concern. Such was his eagerness; he left his helmet on the bench and we got to experience the weird world of Angus Brayshaw on the footy field el natural. Don’t worry though, normal programming was restored after a few shaky minutes when his helmet was delivered to him by a trainer.

Melbourne now move to 2-0 and the Gold Coats suns sit at 1-1 moving into round three. Melbourne will be lining up against the Bombers, who are desperate for a win to kickstart their season, next Friday night at the MCG. Meanwhile the Suns will play GWS at Giants Stadium in the early Saturday game.