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The Friday Wrap: NAB2  March 4, 2016 4:23 PM

The Gold Coast SUNS fell three points short of the West Coast Eagles in their second NAB Challenge game and left Perth on Friday morning with plenty of admirers after an impressive performance. has reviewed the game and identified the following key discussion areas.

Young SUNS surprise experienced Eagles

Going into the game, the vast majority had written off an inexperienced Gold Coast SUNS squad facing a West Coast side featuring 15 of their 2015 Grand Final team.

The SUNS had just one player with more than 100 games experience in Jarrod Harbrow (163), compared to the Eagles’ 13. Gold Coast had 10 players with less than 10 games experience next to their name compared to West Coast’s two.

You get the point.

But with the breeze behind their backs in the first quarter, the SUNS completely surprised their more favoured opponent to lead at every change, stretching the margin out to 29-points midway through the third quarter.

Unfortunately the young Gold Coast side couldn’t hold on for the victory, defeated with the final kick of the day in the dying seconds.

While it would’ve been nice to board the Virgin Australia flight back to the Gold Coast with a W, there weren’t any premiership points up for grabs and the positives from Thursday’s contest in Joondalup far outweigh the negatives.

SUNS' pressure a standout

It’s clear that the message from Rodney Eade and his coaching staff is getting through to the playing group with the effort displayed by an inexperienced side a real standout.

The SUNS were hammered in some of the key indicators but pleasingly, Gold Coast won the contested ball count (120-119) against a team ranked 3rd in the competition in 2015 for average contested possessions per game.

Gold Coast also won the tackle count 79-63 with the midfield group of Aaron Hall (16), Touk Miller (8), Mitch Hallahan (7) and Jesse Lonergan (6) providing plenty of grunt work in the middle.

Ruckman Dan Currie also finished with seven tackles.

If Gold Coast can take the same level of pressure and effort into the premiership season, more wins on the board should be a formality.

Two-metre Peter on fire early

In the first quarter of the game, you’d hardly know the SUNS were missing their primary target up forward in Tom Lynch.

19-year-old Peter Wright was clearly the most dangerous forward on the ground, and there were some decent ones on HBF Arena including last year’s Coleman Medallist Josh Kennedy.

Two-metre Peter defied difficult conditions to pluck two marks inside 50 and boot a pair of goals in the opening period and while he didn’t have a substantial impact after the quarter-time siren, Wright left SUNS fans salivating with a real glimpse into the future.

Has The Cannon turned a corner?

After being left out of the SUNS’ opening NAB Challenge game against the Lions, defender Trent McKenzie has responded in the best way possible with a solid game across half-back against the Eagles.

Rodney Eade indicated in his post-match press conference that McKenzie’s work rate on the training track increased significantly in February and it was evident at Joondalup.

The inaugural SUN finished with 25 disposals (80% efficiency), five marks, 11 rebound 50’s and 3 inside 50’s to be one of his team’s best players on the night.

He also left fans with their jaws on the ground at times with a couple of enormous kicks that exceeded 80 metres in distance, including a kick-in from full back that cleared the centre circle.

‘The Cannon’ still has a lot to prove, but Thursday was a great start and we can only hope McKenzie is in for a big 2016.

80 metres out? Have a shot, Cannon!

Posted by Gold Coast Suns on Thursday, 3 March 2016