Alternate Worlds – Gold Coast vs West Coast from two completely different views
On paper, this looked to be an uninspiring fixture with the lowly Eagles travelling to Metricon to face the fading Suns, however, both teams had periods of dominance with only pride on the line and delivered a highly entertaining match.
Both teams scoring over 100 points is a rarity in modern AFL, and this outcome today was more reflective of the dare and dominance of the forwards rather than any significant defensive holes. There were stars on both sides for the day, each could’ve been hailed the matchwinner depending on how the result ultimately fell.
In the wash up the four points probably meant more to the home team Suns, despite several milestones for West Coast on the day, including 250-games for stalwart Andrew Gaff, 100-games for Tim Kelly and 200-games as coach by Adam Simpson.
In this review, Trent Adam Shields will be wearing the Blue and Gold of the Eagles, whilst Brett Hodgson will done Suns colours as a proud Gold Coast supporter.
WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?
HODGEY – Touk Miller was immense in this game for the Suns. He copped a tag mostly from Xavier O’Neill but showcased once again his unrivalled workrate to get his side over the line. In arguably his most commanding performance for the season, the Suns co-captain accumulated a mammoth 16 clearances to go along with 31 disposals (21 contested possessions), ten tackles, three goal assists and seven score involvements. Miller’s engine was on show, and when you factor in that he spent only nine minutes on the bench, it really puts into perspective just how hard he works. With the game on the line, Miller stood up, getting the midfield going with five clearances and ten possessions.
Mabior Chol deserves a very honourable mention with five straight, five marks (three contested) as he overcame an early injury scare to provide his new side with the big presence they have so desperately needed in the absence of Ben King. Chol’s hanger over Andrew Gaff was simply “poetry in motion” and for anybody that has watched Chol over this season, I’m not sure I have ever seen him rushed, as he is showcasing extreme confidence in his skills and abilities.
Noah Anderson worked his ass off all game as well, spending some time on the wing to combat Jack Redden, he had some very vital contest wins in the last quarter that were a catalyst in thwarting easy ball forward for the Eagles. He is improving rapidly, and if you watch the way he goes about it, you can safely surmise that he bleeds red, gold and blue
TRENT – While the Eagles fell just short of a stirring comeback win after falling behind by 37 points, it was hard to go past key forward Jack Darling as the premier player on the field. In relatively unfamiliar territory without his partner Josh Kennedy inside F50, Darling was a target all match to finish with an equal career-high six majors.
There was some simple advice given to me as a young key forward, and that was simply to achieve your stated targets for marks and goals in a game you have to commit to four times that many contests, Darling’s work rate and willingness to throw his weight around was as impressive as his ultimate return.
His goals came from multiple avenues as he worked his opponent Sam Collins up and down the ground creating separation, and were kicked from acute angles, great distance, via a holding the ball free and greater judgement in marking contests. Some of the delivery to him on the lead was absolute top shelf, especially via experienced, elite users Shuey and Hurn.
WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?
HODGEY- The outstanding defensive zone setup in the first half thwarted many West Coast clearing attacks- paving the way for a big inside 50 advantage that the Suns were able to capitalise on in the opening half of the game. Credit to the Eagles though, who closed up that avenue with better ball use and run in the second half. For the game as a whole, Gold Coast dominated the clearances with Jarrod Witts often getting cleaner ball to the midfield group- allowing the Suns to hold a +14 advantage in clearances, despite conceding three extra hitouts. The Suns favoured distanced disposals around the ground, especially once the Eagles’ immense pressure lifted in the second half. Gold Coast were able to manufacture more movement in tight, whereas the Eagles were better at creating space and overlap from the middle.
TRENT– In a game of literal inches, you can look for the smallest piece of evidence to support a theory on how your team could have ended up in the winner’s column. For the Eagles today it was probably lack of volume inside F50 where they had dangerous players all day, but just didn’t get enough looks as the 65% scoring efficiency once inside 50 compared to a season average of 45% would attest. Losing the I50 count 40-57, and only winning one quarter, the last by a single entry the harder working defensive midfield effort by the Suns to restrict supply was probably the main contributor to the final result.
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
HODGEY– A few things come to mind here, but number one would have been tagging Tim Kelly with pace. Especially in the last quarter, Gold Coast threw David Swallow on to Kelly, and Kelly was a massive catalyst in the Eagles’ fightback in the last quarter. Nothing against Swallow- who is an absolute warrior, however, Dew had to be more tactical in his matchup.
Despite playing in defence in the VFL, I would have liked to have seen either a few rucking opportunities or a run up forward for Mac Andrew- who started off really nervously in the first half, but warmed into the game as it went along, purely as there was not an exact matchup that the Suns were maybe able to capitalise on.
Jack Petrucelle was outstanding in the game, and perhaps Jy Farrar could have been a better matchup then Oleg Markov- who lowered his colours a little bit in the game. Markov rarely plays on guys that have the pace to match him, yet failed to have touch on Petrucelle at vital stages.
Some sort of forward shuffle to isolate Izak Rankine on Luke Foley might have been worthwhile too, as Rankine was his mercurial self early, however, faded a touch once the Eagles were able to gain some sort of defensive aerial ascendancy.
TRENT – While Tom Barrass was once again wonderful and is now surely in the frame for a debut AA blazer, coach Simpson could have perhaps rolled the dice and moved him from Casboult on to the far more dangerous Chol earlier in the game. The Eagles star took an equal game-high 11 marks, six of those intercepts, keeping his direct opponent to just two and a solitary goal.
The Eagles would be well served reviewing their centre square configuration in the off-season, for most of the first half with Tim Kelly ball hunting, which as the alpha mid is probably within his remit, left Culley and O’Neill badly exposed defensively allowing Miller and Anderson primarily easy access out of the congestion with Witts on top early. Adjustments were made for the second half with Connor West prominent albeit not as clean as he’d like to be, Natanui overcoming a dominant Witts to probably break even on the day, and Jermaine Jones leading a half back line including club legends Shuey and Hurn to stop the Suns strolling forward and set up aggressive attacks through the centre corridor.
MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE
HODGEY – Playing against the most successful WA club in the AFL, it was fitting for West Australian Jeremy Sharp was to have a part to play in the Suns’ win. Being the leading winger with the late withdrawal of Brandon Ellis, Sharp was a bit scratchy early- conceding the first goal to Jack Redden and looking a touch off with his disposal. After quarter time, Sharp lifted big time and provided a crucial linkman for the Suns counter attacks. Sharp led the game with 607m gained as well as kicking two crucial goals from his 19 possessions and five marks.
Rory Atkins showed much more composure off half-back, in arguably his cleanest performance for the Suns.
TRENT – Oft maligned Jack Petrucelle made a significant impression on this match, his speed and goalkicking critical to the Eagles’ charge after the long break. Playing an important link role early before he came to life in the third term nailing two set shot goals, including one from outside the 50m line, then in the frantic last quarter, he finished off a daring forward thrust with a sublime finish on the run.
Former Queenslander Jack Redden started the game off impressively, an early goal courtesy of a laser beam Ryan pass, and a run-down tackle the highlights as he produced another fine outing consisting of 23 assured disposals and a season-high two goals. His consistent form should have him vying with Kelly and Barrass for the John Worsfold medal come season’s end.
THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?
HODGEY – Rankine’s “chip and chase” goal from the right flank was simply unique- I don’t know if I have ever seen a finish like that, the Chol grab and goal was epic as well, especially considering he looked gone for all money with a lower leg injury in the first term, however, the moment that mattered most was the clutch goal to Malcom Rosas- but there was a few vital players in the chain
With 38 seconds remaining, the final centre square contest takes place. Matt Rowell loses Luke Shuey and chases down a Naitanui tap- bombing the ball to the Suns attacking 50, Levi Casboult (who had his hands full with Tom Barass for the whole game) charges at the footy and crucially knocks Jumaine Jones down- allowing Miller to swoop and find Rosas for the clincher. Kelly, who had been brilliant in the last stanza, allows Miller goal side to set up Rosas.
I do want to give mention to Sean Lemmens who overcame a scratchy start to have some telling rebounding chains, as well as an outstanding rundown tackle.
TRENT – In a three-point game it is always easy to pick certain incidents and place more scrutiny on them than would otherwise be fair considering the length of games and the 1,000s of moments that make up a game. For West Coast today however they will rue four or five gilt-edged chances to win the game in the dying minutes. Firstly Jamie Cripps was run down from behind as he was about to launch the ball deep inside F50, next Jake Waterman who was quiet throughout had a regulation shot from 45m out straight in-front to take the lead but badly shanked his kick, then Bailey Williams found himself on the end of another straight forward shot on goal after some brilliance by Jamaine Jones to set him up but his kick drifted wide and the door slammed shut.
In a game filled with highlights, it might be Liam Ryan’s spectacular high mark running with the flight next to the goal post that is most fondly remembered. A livewire throughout, Ryan played probably his best game in an inconsistent season collecting 16 disposals, eight marks, four tackles, two goals and assists, but it was his iconic leap that will be the lasting memory.
WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?
HODGEY -Caleb Graham has a lot of growth to do, and while his spot may be relatively safe with Charlie Ballard out, he showed that he just is not ready to be a key defender at this level just yet. This is in no way an indictment of the 21-year-old (who I really think has promise) but the role he is being asked to play he is not yet ready for in a normal setting. As he still makes elementary mistakes with positioning and overzealous play, but hopefully that tidies up as his experience grows.
Jack Lukosius looked out of sorts a touch, as he was thrown around constantly and it seems to be messing with his confidence a touch. He could have booted a few goals, but was really rusty in situations where he has thrived in the past. Perhaps a move to half-back could have been on the cards at a point in this game.
As previously mentioned, Markov had his hands full with Petrucelle at times, although admittedly the Suns defence looked really out of sorts for long stretches, as players were caught out a lot in a soft zone setup.
TRENT – In a credible team performance in what has been a simply awful season it is difficult to lay blame at anyone in particular, but that’s what we get paid for at Mongrel HQ, so here goes. The unheralded and inexperienced backline triumvirate of Harry Edwards, Brady Hough and Luke Foley were found wanting in the game-breaking second term. While their effort cannot be faulted, they allowed Izak Rankine, Mal Rosas and others free passage to goal and repeatedly offered second chances to a ravenous Suns midfield with poor disposal out of the defensive zone. 250-gamer Andrew Gaff was not immune to the pandemic of poor kicking either as he was tracking at the diabolical 17% early in the piece, two turnovers under no pressure directly resulted in goals.
Again, it is tough to highlight the youngsters, who showed great promise and should improve rapidly with more concerted team performances like this, but ill-discipline raised its ugly head again today. Firstly, Jai Culley after a whirlwind start to his career badly let himself down with an errant elbow into the side of Noah Anderson’s head, the fact the Suns’ #15 appeared unhurt is the only thing saving him from a delayed start to 2023. A hamstring strain shortly after halftime was the end of a dirty day for the very promising midfielder.
Next, it was Natanui that ran foul of team orders when he let his ego get the better of him and gave away a soft but obvious free kick in the shadows of three-quarter time for prohibited contact after the umpire had blown the whistle. This indiscretion led directly to a Suns goal, in a three-point game that proved very costly indeed.
PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?
HODGEY – Hard to split Jack Darling and Tom Barrass here. Darling was absolutely outstanding in leading the Eagles attack, booting six straight from 14 possessions and eight marks in a commanding performance. His acceleration appeared out of nowhere, as he sprang around like a young pup- making mincemeat of the Gold Coast defensive alignment.
At the other end, Barrass staked his claim for an AA jacket with an immense aerial defence. Barrass shut out Levi Casboult for large portions of the game while feasting on anything loose caused by the Eagles’ pressure. The gun defender accumulated 19 disposals, 11 marks and six intercepts.
TRENT – Suns co-skipper Touk Miller was typically tireless, and the best midfielder on a day dominated by forwards. His ability to repeatedly go to the well, extract the ball (which he did an incredible 16 times), provide support running forward or defending back and in laying ten tackles was superb. Last year he was AA and finished with 17 Brownlow votes, in a team that has already won two more games than in 2021 he may just have exceeded that outstanding season in ’22.
Former Tiger Mabior Chol was equally important for the victors, while he didn’t set any records for possessions, he made sure each one counted, kicking five goals straight from his seven disposals. He was an early threat, out marking Eagle star Tom Barrass for two early goals, and coolly slotted one after the three-quarter time siren to maintain the home side’s advantage. In the final term his two set shot goals belied the pressure that was mounting on numerous others who failed when the spotlight was on them and using the little used technique of drop punts when kicking for goal ensured his team scored more than the opposition.
HODGEY – Gold Coast keep their slim finals chances alive with this win, and they travel to UTAS to battle the Hawks in an interesting clash- with Hawthorn copping a pasting in their last matchup. While the Suns won this week, I’d be willing to bet Stewart Dew was less then impressed, as they failed to put the hammer down from their commanding position. Credit where it’s due though, massive amount of respect for the Eagles- as they never considered throwing in the towel.
TRENT – A highly encouraging performance by the proud club from WA in a season they’d rather forget. With 26 players from the senior list missing at least one match due to the leagues Health & Safety protocols, gaining momentum from continuity was always going to be a challenge but there appears to have been a distinct shift in their form line in the past 6 weeks. With club legend Josh Kennedy hanging up the boots there is every chance this better form will lead to another win or two on the back of the tidal wave of emotion before they sign off for the year, with a number of younger players given valuable playing experience and the likely #2 draft pick safely in their back pocket you’d expect a springboard off the bottom in 2023.