There was a funny feeling about this game in the last quarter. The scores were still close, yet you had the feeling that Geelong knew that the young Gold Coast Suns had given all they had, and were ready to give it up.
It was not a convincing win – not by a long stretch, and had this been Game One of the 2019 season, I am sure that many would be questioning the credentials of the Cats, and talking up the endeavour of the Suns. Whilst the latter may still ring true, I don’t think a game like this, at this stage of the season raises any doubts about Geelong in 2019.
But it does raise questions about Gold Coast, and just how far they’ve come in a short time.
Let’s check out what went on in our good, bad and ugly.
AND THE 2019 BROWNLOW GOES TO…
So if we called the season off right now, how many votes would Tim Kelly win the Brownlow by? His last three weeks have been absolutely sublime, and in the absence of Patrick Dangerfield, Kelly put the Geelong midfield on his back this evening.
He had 16 contested touches amongst his 35 disposals as he worked all over the park, bobbing up in both attacking and defensive 50 to give his teammates aid. His eight clearances were second only to the workhorse known as David Swallow, and his ability to create at stoppages via hand is about as good as it gets.
When Kelly gets his hands on the ball, good things happen. He had another ten score involvements this week as he continued to find good options to send Geelong forward.
I know this sounds like a broken record, but at what point do the Cats draw a line in the sand on next season? This bloke’s value is climbing by the week, and if they are not going to re-sign him, you’d have to think bidding between West Coast and Fremantle starts at two first rounders.
If you’re a West Coast fan, what are you willing to give up to get your mitts on this bloke? How about you Freo fans? It’s looking at the moment like the Dockers will be better placed to make an offer with a higher pick, but if West Coast can offer someone like Jarrod Brander, maybe the deal is sweetened a little. Maybe Freo counters by offering Adam Cerra.
This is going to be a fun off-season, but first of all, there’s a premiership to be won, and Tim Kelly may end up being instrumental in how that all plays out.
DAVID SWALLOW LEADS BY EXAMPLE
There’s been a fair bit of focus on the kids of the Gold Coast Suns, but it’s about time David Swallow got some credit, and not just a little bit of it. He is having an outstanding season, averaging 23.6 disposals, 11.2 contested touches, and five clearances per game.
He has stood up when he’s had to and is playing like a genuine leader. His 13 clearances were the second time this season he’s had 12 or more, and with another 19 contested touches, he was in and under all night long.
People are often talking about great leaders on teams. Trent Cotchin gets mentioned, as does Joel Selwood, but the way David Swallow has stepped into the leadership role with the Suns has been nothing short of excellent. Watching him now, like a battered warrior fighting on to inspire his troops, you have to wonder just how spectacularly good he would have been if he’d had a good run with injuries?
My hope for the remainder of 2019 is that Swallow can stay injury free, and that playing with him results in some of those kids wanting to stay with the suns just to play with Swallow more. He strikes me as a one who leads by example, and with the way he is going about his footy in 2019, how could you not want to follow in his footsteps?
THE BALLAD OF CHARLIE BALLARD
Yeah look, I’m sorry about the title, but it’s 12.45 and I am just starting to write this review for the morning. It’s not going to get better.
Rather than put Gary Rohan in the “bad” category, I’d rather give credit where it’s due, and on this occasion, that resides with the young Suns defender. Rohan has torn teams to shreds this season, and charged with keeping him quiet, Ballard worked hard to force Rohan away from the deep forward position he’s created such havoc in for most of the season.
Rohan finished with 14 touches, which is a little more than he usually needs to hurt teams on the scoreboard, but the fact that only three of them came inside 50 means that he had to travel far and wide to collect them.
Ballard, on the other hand, seemed content to allow Rohan to roam when he wanted to, preferring to drop back and aid his fellow defenders. I’m sure Jack Hombsch would’ve appreciated a few more of his teammates doing the same as he was forced to deal with Hawkins one-on-one a few too many times for my liking. And his liking.
Ballard came in for some criticism earlier in the year for sub-standard delivery, and correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it in the JLT series where he stubbed his toe when kicking not once, but twice?
He seems to have put those woes behind him and is starting to look right at home deep in defence. If this is the position he is destined to remain in, I think the Suns will see him develop into a Grant Birchall-type as the years go by.
NICE JAB, GAZ
I’ve seen players suspended for less than what Gary Ablett did tonight.
I’ve seen players suspended for less than what Gary Ablett did two weeks ago.
And I’ve seen players suspended for less than what Gary Ablett did three weeks ago, but you know what? I hope he doesn’t get suspended, because despite all the hate and booing, and vindictive fans, I absolutely love the fact we have Gary Ablett running around playing good football in 2019.
While he was nowhere near his prolific best tonight, he did give a couple of reminders to opponents that opted to sag off that you simply cannot do that when one of the top few, if not the best player of the modern era is in the vicinity.
Ablett’s two goals for the game were vintage gaz. As soon as he worked his way into space, you knew he was kicking a goal. He finished with the standard 20 touches, and added two direct goal assists as part of his eight score involvements, but it was the short, sharp punch to the face of Anthony Miles that will draw the ire of Michael Christian, and I suspect that Gaz might not be as lucky this time.
Some are arguing it was an open hand – it wasn’t. Even Gary Ablett can’t go round putting one on someone’s chin… or cheek, or whatever. This one should cost him a week, and I reckon both he and the Cats will take it. he is due for a rest, and if Danger is back next week, Gaz will tag out and start preparing for the Tigers in Round 12.
Let me lay this out for you.
With four minutes left in the third quarter, the Gold Coast Suns, a team some expected to win zero games this season (and really, those people are idiots – these are professional footballers… of course they were going to win at some point!) led the number one ranked team in the game by five points.
At three quarter time, Geelong had edged back in front by two points, and what we should have had was a fever-pitched atmosphere, with Gold Coast genuinely believing they were about to cause the upset of the year.
But we didn’t get that.
This may be a severe learning curve for the Gold Coast Suns, but I get a distinct sense that there was a feeling of “well, we stuck with them for three quarters…” about this game. It may not be true – it may be completely off the mark, but if we discount fatigue (which is impossible) the Suns played the same way in the last they had all game. Nothing went up a notch. No one was throwing their body in with more reckless abandon than they were earlier in the game. It was very much a case of the same old song playing again in the fourth quarter, and Geelong were the ones who took the risky kicks (Tim Kelly to Tom Stewart in stride was perfect football in the last), while the tired Suns hacked it forward and hoped.
All I could think as I watched this was how good the Suns WILL BE. But really, against an uninspired Geelong team, the Suns really could have caused an upset here. They kicked just two points in the last quarter, as the cats kicked four goals to walk away with a 27 point win.
No one expects the Suns to play finals this season, but think about it – they lost to St Kilda and Melbourne by a kick. They had the West Coast Eagles on toast, and now they’ve been right there to take the chocolates from Geelong if… if they’d been able to.
In order to be able to, you have to want it. None of this honourable loss crap – leave that to Carlton. You want to build culture? You want to build a never-say-die attitude? It starts in these games, and when the game tightens up, that’s when you find out which players want it most.
One more pre-season to improve that fitness. One more draft class. That’s all the Suns need to start shaking the AFL tree for real, and if teams are still pulling away late in games by then, Gold Coast and Stuart Dew will have a really good indication as to which players want to be there, and which will give all of themselves for the jumper.
The next 12 months are the most important in the young life of the Gold Coast Suns.
There is a reason this bloke was delisted by Geelong, you know?
Last time we mentioned him, I got a couple of messages stating I should “leave him alone” as though he was some Britney Spears kind of character. Guys… he is supposed to be providing a cool head and composure to take the pressure off the young blokes around him – not make things tougher for them.
Here’s the notes I took on Murdoch tonight, both good and bad.
First Quarter – Dropped uncontested intercept mark
Second Quarter – walks the ball over the goal line and gives away a free kick. Luckily, the shot misses.
Third Quarter – Great release kick to Will Powell on the wing but the kid juggles it over the line
Third Quarter – The candy sell on Gary Rohan was perfect. Sent Rohan sprawling across the turf. Loved it.
Fourth Quarter – Terrible kick inside defensive 50 is chopped off by Tom Hawkins as Murdoch has time to assess and deliver and does neither.
So, there were five things that stood out about his game and three of them were bad enough that I actually wrote them down. The Suns have contracted him until the end of the 2021 season, which currently looks a little ambitious. He often bites off more than he can chew, and rarely displays the kind of composure you want from a senior member of the team.
I think the Suns may have thought they were buying lemonade in Murdoch, but they may have ended up with a lemon.
I thought Anthony Miles was really good all night. A more mature body, he seemed content to take the contact when it came his way rather than offer the quick release to put teammates in a similar situation.
At one point it looked as though Hawkins was capable of kicking ten. Six contested grabs and 4.3 indicated he was simply too big and strong for Jack Hombsch. All in all, if you’re looking at personal performances, I reckon Hawkins let an opportunity slip today.
I really like what I see from Jack Bowes, but it seems to me that he is great early, and fades rapidly. Loved his hip and shoulder on Gryan Miers in the first quarter, but after quarter time, I hardly sighted him. Not fit enough yet?
The ruck duel was really interesting, with Rhys Stanley managing 33 hit outs which was a little unexpected, inasmuch as I expected him to get plenty of the ball, but not be able to jump over Witts. He did, and did it often, but only had four hit outs to advantage. Witts managed 14.
Not sure how long you’re allowed to hold onto the ball for as you’re tackled, but Tim Kelly went 360, and then another 180 and was allowed to dispose of the ball. Darcy MacPherson has every right to feel a little pissed at the decision to allow Kelly so much time.
Another three goals for Mitch Duncan on the night. He genuinely looks to be enjoying his football at the moment and would have been pushing for votes in both of his last two outings.
Alex Sexton is a goal kicker… I get that, but what I’d really like to see is him creating for others as often as others create for him. He had just seven touches of the forty tonight, and his five score involvements were all his own shots at goal. He finished with 3.2, should have had at least four, and probably needs to work harder to get some ball to his teammates and return a bit of the love.
And you know what? That’ll do me. It’s 2am and I am tired. If you’d like to help The Mongrel out, help us grow and make it so that I can stay up writing reviews all the time… please consider joining our patreon page. You get extra content, and I get to start planning more for our site which will hopefully lead to more media, including podcasts. But without you, I can’t do that.
The Cats get the resurgent Sydney next week at Kardinia Park, and they’d have to have memories of what happened last year still pretty fresh in their minds. What happened? Look it up, damn it. Ever heard of Google?
The Suns might run into a bit of a buzz saw in the GWS Giants on the road, but if they bring the same effort they did this week, anything’s possible.
Thanks for reading.
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