Much hype surrounded and entered Heritage Bank Stadium, with a sell-out crowd. The Suns are in touching distance of the top 8, and they host a Pies side who came from the clouds to defeat the Crows last week. Would the Suns be able to shine as bright as their name and FINALLY show that they belong, or would the Pies continue on their merry way, ensuring they remain the team to beat? There is much at stake in this game, with top eight ramifications on all results. How did things play out? Here’s what you need to know!
The Best Form of Attack
Is defence. I’m assuming you finished the statement that way? The Pies play an engaging, chaotic, and entertaining brand of football – and boy does that pain me to say. They control the game, and no team feels safe when they come up against them. One of the key reasons for that, I think, is because of their defense.
They have some great one-on-one defenders (Isaac Quaynor for one), then there are the interceptors (hello Darcy Moore), and then those who run and carry (John Noble, this is your cue). The Pies build a lot of their offence with their defensive slingshot – and today, John Noble was one of the prime movers. He had 30 disposals, 500+ metres gained, and kicked a ripping goal.
If you’re going to beat this Pies team, you need to a) pray, b) pray some more, and c) figure out a way to negate their defence, and their chaotic ball movement. That’s not an easy task, but it can be done. Mostly, through accountability, a fair bit of luck, but also by matching their willingness to take the game on. And your pressure needs to be elite for four quarters – something that, today, the Suns didn’t achieve, barely raising their heart rates.
The Demise of Dewball
While Bazball, even if unsuccessful at times, is thoroughly entertaining and ridiculous, Dewball reeks of mediocrity. The premise of Dewball is simple: we don’t care about results, we just want you to turn up and pretend to be a Footballer. And then Stuart Dew will pretend to be a coach.
The Suns are frauds. Legitimately, they are fraudulent as a club. I’m not going to spend a great deal of time unpacking this as The Mongrel Punt’s resident Suns supporter Hodgey will be pouring his thoughts out later this week. And I mean pouring, literally, as he’ll need some form of liquid assistance to get through it.
I honestly think, and my wife won’t like this commentary as she’s a big Stewie Dew fan from his time at the Power (I’m less inclined to like him because of 2008), but anyway … I honestly think that the Suns coach isn’t as good as his contract extension suggests. The Suns live in mediocrity. It’s rinse and repeat for them.
Now, does that mean that they are incapable of playing good football? Not at all. We have seen many glimpses of what they can do, and that’s why they remain so infuriating as a football club. They have had access to much high-end talent, they have retained some, and they have moments of elite play. The problem is that they don’t have a discernible brand or identity. The Suns have the players to play with a hard edge, and to spread the ball and run in waves. However, we rarely see this. The players play for each other, but not for the jumper. Something needs to give to see the Suns finally step onto the Island of Relevancy with the Tribal Chief.
The centre clearances were shared 50-50 in this match. That’s not unsurprising given the ruck dominance of Jarrod Witts, and the form that Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell are in. However, around the ground and on the spread, the Pies were able to gain some ascendency. This started with the pressure that the Pies put on, and then their ability to win the football back in transition and open play.
Surprisingly, the team from the Gold Coast sky have done relatively well in the contested stakes for much of the year, even without Touk Miller. Matt Rowell is a bull, and is responsible for their defensive edge around the ball, and Noah Anderson has grown his game significantly in 2023. They were almost the two shining lights in this game.
At one point in the third quarter, after only kicking one goal as a team before that point, Rowell did what great leaders do, and put his side on his broad shoulders, kicking back-to-back goals himself. He also led his side with eight tackles (no-one else in his team had more than four) and all-comers with nine clearances (Anderson had seven, to go with six inside 50’s, and the second most metres gained). The development of the young Suns midfielders has been a bright spark for the team this year. They have had significant influence in many games and are the type of players that the club can build around, if they can figure out a way forward that creates a great environment for the players, develops the culture, and has a discernible on-field identity.
For the Pies, the youngest Macedonian Marvel was, again, excellent. Game highs in disposals (36), and tackles (10). He has taken to the midfield like a duck to water, and complements Tom Mitchell and Taylor Adams very well. Part of the secret to the Pies’ success is the number of players that can go through the middle, and the way that they have brought into Craig McRae’s vision, and to each other.
If the Pies’ defence don’t get you, the spread of their midfielders will. There are many strings to their bow, and it’ll be an interesting watch to see how teams combat them.
From the Viewing Gallery
Pat Lipinski brings significant upside to the Pies. He runs hard, is tough, and is a very good user of the ball. He’s missed a bit of footy since moving to the Pies, so it’s good to see him back out there.
Wil Powell doesn’t get anywhere near enough respect. Sure, he can make some interesting decisions, but any side would like his link up play and the way he distributes the ball. He is a penetrating kick, and has a way of finding space.
Billy Frampton continues to impress since moving to the Pies. He impacted the scoreboard this week with two goals, but can play in defence and in the ruck. He’s not a household name, but he plays a big role in this side.
Sam Flanders had one of his better games today. He was one of the few Suns to be able to hold his head high, knowing he actually had a crack. He set up scores, and was intercepting, showing he can impact the game in all facets.
Jamie Elliott is a star. Another five goals for him today, and one of those showed his offensive nous and football smarts, to keep it from crossing the point line, and then finishing job. I expect to see that in contention later in the year for Goal of the Season.
The Suns didn’t live up to the occasion, with the Pies winning by a lazy 78 points. It could be another season of what if for the Suns, while the Pies are hoping to better their 2022 result. Next week, the Pies travel just down the road to Marvel Stadium as the combat the Dogs, while the Suns travel to the City of Churches to take on the Power at Adelaide Oval – so, things don’t get easier for them.
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