Gold Coast v Hawthorn – The Doc’s Autopsy

I was in Bali last weekend and caught some of the Gold Coast’s defeat against Carlton on my holiday from a hectic six months of work, finishing uni, and everything else in between that has gone on in my life.

Since coming back home, a couple of things. Firstly, the weather is still absolute crap – please take me back to Bali. Secondly, everyone has come out of the woodwork to dismiss the Suns on the back of one poor performance against a side that has been remarkably poor for nearly two months.

There has been pressure on the Suns in the lead-up to this game against Hawthorn. The Hawks have proven that without the wins on the board, they can still compete with teams better than them. This was going to take much work.

About 15 minutes into this game, the Hawks had kicked three goals to nil, and questions were again asked about the Suns’ legitimacy as a finals threat. By full-time, these questions were to be put to bed – at least for the week, as Hawthorn only had a further two goals kicked by the end of the match.

This was a response that the Suns needed after a week of bashing from the mainstream media. They suffocated Hawthorn’s exits out of defence, albeit without James Sicily. If they’d been more constructive with their forward 50 entries and converted some of their more accessible opportunities in the second term, the result would’ve been decided by halftime rather than be 10 points separating the two sides.

I feel for supporters who witness their team dominate a term and only get a few goals and unlimited behinds for their trouble, as the opposition often makes them pay for it. But the Suns got their goals in the third term – primarily via stoppage dominance – to open up a commanding five-goal lead before five goals between Malcolm Rosas and Noah Anderson ensured the Suns came away with this game with a percentage-boosting win.


One thing that doesn’t get enough love out of the Gold Coast is the depth of talent in their engine room. Most non-Suns fans probably look at this team and think, ‘Touk Miller, Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson… that’s all there is to it, right?’

Well, no, that’s not true: Dave Swallow still exists. Expect Bailey Humphrey to be a full-time midfielder somewhere down the line. Sam Flanders returned to the team this week, I’ll get to him a bit later, but he was superb in this one.

Then there’s Brayden Fiorini.

Touk’s a great player, but if Fiorini plays like this every week, how hard will it be to get back into this Suns midfield?

It’s been an interesting past 12 months for Fiorini, to say the least. This past off-season, he was on the way out and heading to Collingwood before Tom Mitchell called in and turfed that idea. But since then, he’s returned to the Suns and has worked extremely hard to make a position in the Suns’ best 22 his own.

I’ve seen some of his games in the VFL the past year; he’s far too good for that. But for some reason, his high disposal numbers often don’t translate to the highest level. I’ve had the impression that he’s not as multi-dimensional as other midfielders, or his ability to crack in for hardball could be more consistent. Maybe he’s just squeezed out in a midfield that’s pretty impressive on paper.

There were no such issues in this game. Touk’s return is nearing, and as much as I love watching him play, for a player who’s been consistently in and out of this Suns team like Fiorini, this is the sort of game he needed to put pressure on the selectors in due course.

I was listening to the radio call of this game because I wasn’t going to let Kelli Underwood ruin my weekend. One of the ABC callers claimed it was the best game he’d seen from Fiorini; I agree. There was a lot of everything from him in this game, he dug deep for contested ball, but one of the more significant strengths of his game has always been his ability to run. He’s seen plenty of time on the wing in the past, but this week, he was more of a pure midfielder.

With 17 centre bounce attendances, only one Suns midfielder had more: Matt Rowell. Whilst the young red-haired fella was good around the contest once more, Fiorini’s offensive efforts were far more balanced: 35 disposals, 14 of which were contested. He had 623 metres gained with 25 kicks at 80 per cent efficiency – his kicking another thing that people have criticised him for over the journey – seven clearances, seven marks and eight score involvements (including one goal assist).

An outstanding effort from someone who, at 25 and just 88 games into his career, is at a real crossroads in his football career. I hope he can continue to be utilised as a full-time midfielder when Touk returns. Anything less, and we’ll start going around that debate of whether he leaves or not.


Continuing on from what I said about Sam Flanders or Ned, as I’m sure he’d like to be referred to.

To start this section off properly, let me rephrase something that David King said of Flanders back in February, on the eve of the AFL season.

“Sam Flanders will be a total star in this competition in three to four years. It’s a slow burn because he’s not going to get the prime roles for a little while when you’ve got Anderson, Rowell and Miller in the middle as often as they are. But this guy playing as a half-forward rolling up, you’ll see him do powerful things. The fend, the burst, the step out of traffic and can hopefully be a goal scorer for them this year.”

This resonates with me because 1) part of my job requires me to look up and research AFL players from the Gippsland area… how good’s journalism, right? And – most importantly – 2) like Kingy, I believe in Flanders.

Taken by the Suns with the 11th pick in the 2019 AFL Draft, kids don’t get plucked in high order for no reason unless you think you’re Luke Beveridge when you’re really taking Valium. A lot of hype was around Flanders when he was drafted; some compared him to Christian Petracca as a midfielder-forward hybrid type.
It sounds silly looking back at it, but he showed similar traits, has power, could hit the scoreboard regularly, and was an excellent contested possession-getter. No goals were kicked from Ned in this game, but his contested game thrived in the absence of Touk Miller. He had 13 contested possessions, one shy of Fiorini, and 11 ground ball gets, also one shy of Fiorini, who had 12.

Furthermore, his 13 contested possessions are an equal career-best, mirroring his performance against Sydney at the start of the year. He smashed his previous career-high in disposals, with 27 – seven up on the 20 touches he had a couple of years ago in a game against North Melbourne.

His defensive pressure was also in full effect – 20 pressure acts were top five for the Suns in this respect, behind only Rowell, Nick Holman and Malcolm Rosas – some good company, right?

Some will say this was the best they’ve seen from Flanders since his debut. He got some midfield time in this one, which goes far from the usual spot we see him at half-forward. It’s also easy to forget that he’s 21 and only played 34 games – having struggled to get an entire season under his belt to this point.

He’s going to be some player once he gets it all together.


How long have you got?

This win was set up by an impeccable zone set-up which saw Hawthorn struggle to get out of their defensive half. As a result, the Suns had inside 50 opportunities coming out of every orifice possible. After quarter time, the Suns registered 59 inside 50s to Hawthorns 25: 22 in the second term, 19 in the third and 18 in the last.

Whichever way you spin it, that’s domination in my eyes. By reckoning, they should’ve won by triple digits had it not been for poor conversion and, at times, poor kicking inside 50. But that’s an aside.

Firstly, the pressure inside 50 from the likes of Holman, Rosas and Hewago Oea was insatiable at times: nine tackles inside 50 and 74 pressure acts between the trio are nothing but great numbers from a small forward fleet many would probably turn the other cheek at.
But this set up the defenders brilliantly; Charlie Ballard, Mac Andrew, Wil Powell, Sam Collins and Ben Long combined for 21 intercept marks. That’s a suffocating job considering that Lachie Weller, Darcy Macpherson, and Rory Atkins (for a quarter) also took more than one intercept mark.

To piss off our good friend at the Mongrel and die-hard Suns fan Brett Hodgson. I want to highlight Mac Andrew’s game a little bit more. He was taken as a high-end draft pick a couple of years ago, but he’s really starting to get games integrated into him.

I don’t even know why he speaks so ill of him every time the Suns play. Of course, he’ll be prone to making mistakes, and he’s already been in trouble with the club a couple of times, but the kid isn’t even 20 yet. Some take longer than others to mature appropriately.

This was perhaps the best from a small sample of games he’s played – 12, if we’re being specific. But I got a sense of it a couple of weeks earlier when the Suns beat my Bulldogs that his confidence to fly in for marks is gradually growing. With eight intercept possessions and seven marks in this game (five intercept marks and four contested), this was a great showing from someone still raw and growing into his body.

Like a few of his teammates, his upside will be something special.


There’s not much to heap praise about for the Hawks contingent, but one player that did work really hard was Will Day. Perhaps the best game I’ve seen from him since he got (wrongly) suspended for a tackle back on Easter Monday.
With James Sicily sidelined for the next few weeks, the apparent move made by Sam Mitchell was to send Will Day back to defence across the general play. I say this because Day still got more than his lick of the centre bounce ice cream in this one – recording 19 CBA’s – the most of any Hawk in this game.

Day’s been a solid contributor for the Hawks this season, and some argue he is one of the more improved players in the competition with his more permanent move into the midfield this year. But in defence, he looked like one of the very few composed with the ball in his hands. There was a patch where he filled the hole in defence beautifully with some good intercept marks – three of his nine were intercepts.
Only he and Blake Hardwick recorded double figures in intercept possessions – Hardwick had 12, whilst Day had one less with 11. But the thing that I took the most from this one was how clinical he was by foot. He had 29 disposals at 86 per cent efficiency, but with 14 kicks and 450 metres gained all up, he only missed one target by foot.

Compared to those around him – Blake Hardwick, Seamus Mitchell and Jack Scrimshaw all had five turnovers, each coming out of the back half. I start to wonder that as good as Day has been in the midfield this season, I wonder if the Hawks would be better served to have him in the defensive half?


It’s probably the next phase in the rebuild of Hawthorn… is finding forwards who can stand up and come along with Mitch Lewis for the ride.

It’s no secret that I love how Lewis goes about his footy in the Hawks games I’ve covered here for the Mongrel. With two goals in the opening quarter, we were thinking about how many he’d finish the day on. Could he have been the man to give the Hawks a great boilover win up on the Gold Coast?

After quarter time, he didn’t get much more opportunities to add to his goal tally. He was the beneficiary of a dodgy insufficient intent free kick on the pocket, but his checkside kick failed to register a score. He did finish with 15 disposals, but I’d wager most of those were up the ground, just looking to be the bail-out kick option – it’s often the sign of an ordinary afternoon for the talls if they are required to get their touches up the ground.

The only other viable option they’ve got there is Luke Breust, who bobbed up with a couple of goals in the third term, but the facts are that he’s going to be 33 in November, and if he isn’t retiring this year, the sunset for his career won’t be far off.

I like that they’re getting games into Tyler Brockman, but he’s part of the long-term solution. It wasn’t his best game in this one, but he had some moments that reflect his potential, but his consistently best football remains a way off.

I saw Jacob Koschitzke in this one, and I refer to comments my old man – a long-time Hawks fan – made about him a few weeks ago: ‘he just doesn’t have it’, or it was something like that.

The point is, he doesn’t think the world of him. He had a few shots on goal in this one – gettable shots, too, I might add – and only managed one behind from that. Also, unlike Lewis, he struggled to get his hands on the ball; just six touches, not even a minor stint in the ruck when Lloyd Meek was subbed out, couldn’t do him any justice.

Only four Hawks at the moment have kicked double figures in goals this season: Breust (24 goals), Lewis (20), Fergus Greene (11) – what’s happened to him, by the way? – and Brockman (10).

More contributors in the forward half for mine. It’s good that there’s scoreboard impact from the likes of Jai Newcombe (eight goals), Dylan Moore (eight) and Karl Amon (six), but the Hawks can’t keep asking these guys to consistently input to the scoreboard when there’s very little aiding the future of their forward line.


It could’ve been an evening to remember for Ben King and Jack Lukosius, who each kicked 2.2 on five and four shots on goal, respectively. King had the more gettable shots gone begging in this game, but at least they’ve hit the scoreboard.

It was an evening to forget for Bailey Humphrey, perhaps overdue considering how good of form he has been in the past month. Did like that he admitted to his kick being touched before it went for the score review… you don’t see that often in football.

It was a brilliant performance from Ben Ainsworth in this one. 27 disposals, eight marks and a goal from him, but it was the fact that he managed to link up so brilliantly as the half-forward – featured with nine score involvements in this one.

It was an even spread of intercept possessions at the Suns, too: Andrew, Collins, Ballard and Macpherson all had eight – most Suns players on the ground – Ben Long had seven, and Lachie Weller had six.

Solid performance from Noah Anderson here: 28 disposals, six clearances, 11 contested possessions and a couple of goals late in the game topped it all off. It won’t get the votes, but it was a good performance.

Despite a couple of turnovers, it was an excellent game from Blake Hardwick: he had 38 disposals – which eclipsed his previous personal best set last year against Adelaide, where he had 32. There were times when he played well beyond his years – a subtle reminder that he’s only 26 years old.

Some good flashes from Josh Weddle in the opening term, but then he went unsighted for a lot of the game.

Is it safe to say that Jarman Impey is pumping out one of the more underrated seasons this year? The past month has seen him average over 25 disposals per game across the defensive half. He had another 29 disposals in this one, which looked damaging coming out of half-back.

Karl Amon’s kicking efficiency went at only 57 per cent, but I swear many of his kicks found targets coming through on transition. I thought he had a fair game in this one. But I want to know what Hawks fans have made of his first season in the brown and gold.

To quote one of the callers on one of the very needless score reviews in this game in the second term: ‘It’s a minute of my time the AFL has wasted.’ I had a good chuckle at that, mainly because of reviews like that, where it’s pretty clear that it’s been touched off the boot or it’s hit the post gets reviewed anyway because some goal umpires don’t have the confidence to back themselves in.

James Blanck was Ben King’s direct opponent for most of the night, and despite copping one to his snout early in the game, he was alright in a few aerial contests against King. The Suns’ players let him know when he got beat, though. Also was funny to hear the boundary rider refer to him as ‘James Blunt’ – insert your own reference about the semi by the sea at your own leisure.

And on that one, it’ll do me. It’s getting late, and I’ve got to head back to work in the morning.
The Suns got their bounce-back win and squared the win-loss record back to an even 7-7 and just percentage out of the eight. Next week they have a massive test as they’ll play host to the ladder-leading Collingwood, which should be a juicy game either way.

As for the Hawks, they still are sitting near the bottom at 4-10, but two wins clear of the 17th placed North Melbourne and lightyears ahead of West Coast in last. So they can count themselves out of the Harley Reid Cup for now. They’re an excellent chance to go for five wins for the season next week as they take on a Carlton side rested from the bye – who knows what Blues team we’ll get next week.


You know who’s a great bloke? The Doc. You can buy him a coffee for the work he does by clicking the link below. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate it.


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