So, onto the second leg of the Suns’ stay up in Darwin, with a match-up against Adelaide following that win against the Dogs. I trust the Suns have been able to enjoy the scenic views of the Timor Sea, and maybe even snagged a bargain or two at the Mindil Beach Sunset Market. Were they sidetracked by some of the aforementioned tourist attractions, or did they successfully burn their opponents off and set themselves up for a finals tilt? Find out next, or rather, right now.
Panik: This is a meme reference which a lot of you probably won’t understand, but hey, it’s not my job to make sensible and widely accessible references. The Suns are doing their best impersonations of the grey ‘Panik’ meme head, appearing to soil themselves whenever a Crows opponent draws near. The result is an abundance of rushed, panicked kicks that more often than not are turned over and sent back into dangerous areas by the Crows.
Collins in front: Sam Collins is playing a treacherous game in his duels with Tex Walker, remaining in front of the big man at all times. This allows Collins to peel off and spark an attack for his own team when kicks aimed at Walker have insufficient depth to reach him, but at one juncture it also means that Walker tosses Collins aside with ease as he would an Indigenous cultural brochure, and takes the simplest of marks.
Hunting the man: The Crows are hassling, corralling and hunting any Suns player with purpose as soon as he gets the ball. The Suns have very little space to work with and there are shades of Ross Lyon about the way Adelaide are defending. Given the Saints’ recent performances, I’m not ruling out the possibility that a mystical ceremony was conducted at West Lakes in secret during Doug Nicholls Round, and the defensive application of the two teams switched.
All attacks start with Brodie: Brodie Smith is rivalling Nikola Jokic in playmaking ability, executing an exquisite kick into the middle which results in a superb team goal. He also has another scything kick which breaks open the Suns’ defence. It’s a shame he’s not left-footed, as I believe left-foot kicks to be more beautiful than right-foot kicks in some way that I absolutely can’t articulate, but Brodie’s kicks are still pretty solid all the same.
Much ball, bugger all impact: The commentary team are singing Noah Anderson’s praises throughout the second quarter and I have to check whether I’ve taken my meds. Because his second quarter is rubbish. The stats for the quarter show 10 disposals, the bulk of which are contested, but most of those are either dinky kicks which hurt his team or handballs out of congestion. The handballs are valuable, but not so much that it’s worth creaming your jocks for them. I’d hazard a guess that the number of halves of football played by Anderson this year that were better than that is in the double digits.
GCHTB: No, this isn’t the next name for Kardinia Park.It’s an initialism that sums up the Suns’ obsession with getting caught holding the ball in the first half. Alex Davies offends twice in the first three minutes of the quarter, and multiple others err throughout the rest of the quarter. There’s pressure, for sure, but often it’s due to a Suns player just not thinking quickly enough. I’m starting to wonder whether the Darwin humidity has dehydrated the Suns players more than the coaching staff anticipated. Could be time to get them out of there, Stuey.
Jones composure: Chayce Jones has overcome the handicap of the truly appalling spelling of his name to show some really positive signs as a small rebounding defender. Whenever the Suns forwards put him under the pump, he always shows a clear head, either spotting up an unmarked target 20m away or baulking through traffic before weighing up the best option. He’s one of those ‘role players’ that get talked about all the time. Essentially the contribution of role players boils down to the idea that when they play shit, the team plays shit, and when they play well, the team plays well. For some reason the media don’t find that description as appealing.
Milera puts on the moves: Wayne Milera, or as I like to call him, Wayne Davies-Uniacke, is showing a penchant for the fancy evasive dance steps. On one occasion he eludes two would-be tacklers with some neat footwork, and another moment sees him send an oncoming defender back to Robina before nailing a goal on the run from 40m. It’s a nice display from one of many high draft picks that have perpetually underwhelmed throughout their career.
Rowell lifts in clinches: I’m not quite sure where Matt Rowell was during the first half (getting milked perhaps), but it’s plainly obvious that he’s decided to rock up for the second. In the first few minutes, he racks up the clearances and sparks forward moves from the contest. It helps turn the tide for his team as they net four goals in the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the term. He’d have to be the least fashionable number 1 pick that’s ever been, but bugger me if he isn’t the most passionate player about his footy in the comp right now.
Suns desire it more: Perhaps spurred on by Rowell, there’s a definite shift in the contest, as the Suns attack ground balls with abandon, tackle with aggression, and generally show their desperation to finally have a September that isn’t spent on a Maldives beach quaffing strawberry daiquiris. Balls are falling the Suns’ way as they establish a lead, and though the Crows fight back, there’s something indomitable about Gold Coast that hasn’t been there since the Ablett days.
No Doedee mars the day: The early loss of Tom Doedee has been manfully covered so far by the undersized Crows’ defence, but cracks are beginning to appear. Both Ben King and Jack Lukosius nail two for the term as the Suns gain some aerial dominance inside 50. Admittedly, another contributing factor is that Jordon Butts moves as if he’s locked in an intense battle of wills with his own limbs, but there’s no doubt that Doedee’s absence hurts.
Rachele bellissima: Josh Rachele the Italian soccer player (I bet you weren’t aware of either of those little tidbits) appears to be the only Crow that isn’t shell-shocked by the Suns’ withering burst, with a selection of vital moments throughout the third term. First, he arrests the Suns’ momentum with a nice set shot finish, then he nails a kick into the middle of the ground that eventually results in a Ben Keays goal. To round it off, he mows Wil Powell down at half forward, is correctly paid the free despite the usual bollocks from the commentators, and spots up Darcy Fogarty to goal on the 3QT siren. I’m sure Grandma will give him a sizeable portion of tortellini at the next extended family meet-up as a reward for his efforts.
Unusually sharp: The Suns are channelling Edward Scissorhands with their sharpness in what I imagine are rather moist conditions. Half-volleys are trapped with ease, and lightning-quick handballs are caught skilfully instead of fumbled and stumbled over, as one has become used to with the Suns over the years. It does look as if the old trick of the baby oil has been put to good use. That, or maybe all the players have just collected the sweat that they’ve secreted during number twos on the presumably suffocatingly humid hotel dunny. I did that once in New Caledonia. There was a lot.
Charitable umps: St Vincent De Paul, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Gold Coast Suns Football Club. There’s your list of the four largest charities in the country at the moment. Or so it appears the umps have been told, as they give the Suns some very generous decisions in the heat of the last quarter. One decision mirrors the 50m penalty howler of last week that went against the Suns, and quite frankly, it’s shocking to see that the umps haven’t been explicitly instructed to ensure that such a moment doesn’t happen again. Just call the defender back, for Christ’s sake. A variety of other questionable moments occur, with a couple of pushes-in-the-back for Adelaide going unnoticed, and the result is that the sting goes out of the game, with a definite sense that the Suns have been boosted along in their quest for a win by some of the decisions.
Keays desperation: One man that’s taken it upon himself to try and match the endeavour of the Suns’ engine room is Ben Keays. Some desperate moments from him in the contest force the ball forward for his team, and he gets his hands dirty defensively too, laying five tackles for the term. It’ll likely be something that Matthew Nicks points out in the weekly review, but Nicks may have to specify that, whilst Keays’ efforts should be emulated by every member of the 22, his hair should not.
The doubts continue to linger: Much has been made of the gulf between the Crows’ away performances and their much stronger home performances this season, and these discussions will doubtlessly continue following this latest capitulation. It’s not ideal for an interstate side to have such a discrepancy week-to-week, and the coaching staff will surely be scrambling for a solution. For what it’s worth, here are some of my suggestions to give those unfamiliar away cities a more homely feel:
All culture of a city to be restricted to one street strip during the Crows’ stay there, ala Hindley Street
A load of grey nomads to be bussed in ahead of away games to give the city a more antiquated, sedate feel
Pie floaters to become mandatory menu items in all CBD culinary establishments and signage to this effect to be displayed all around the city
All worthy suggestions, I think you’ll agree.
And so, the Suns’ stay in Darwin concludes with another stirring win, 16.16.112-13.9.87. For the Gold Coast, things are finally seeming to click, and they are very firmly in the mix as a sentimental finals favourite. They have almost a clean bill of health, and with this momentum being carried into the back half of the season, there’s more scope than ever for things to go dramatically wrong and cause them to miss finals in heart-wrenching fashion.
For Adelaide, it’s awesome to see Izak Rankine losing out to the club he walked out on, and I’m sure other bitter, jaded curmudgeons will agree with me there. As for their performance, until they learn to play the same way every week regardless of the game’s location, they may just have to be satisfied with a level of consistency akin to that of Nan’s Christmas gravy.