Ahead of QClash 13 this Saturday night, the Gold Coast SUNS aren’t taking the Brisbane Lions lightly and have been closely monitoring the progress of their midfield, who assistant coach Dean Solomon rates among the best in the AFL.
Led by new captain Dayne Beams, the Lions engine room also features classy left footer Daniel Rich, ball magnet Tom Rockliff and Broadbeach local Dayne Zorko and have the talent to test any side in the competition, particularly under the guidance of new coach Chris Fagan.
Saturday’s game will likely be won and lost in the midfield battle, with the SUNS’ Queensland rivals showing huge improvement since the opening JLT Series game between the two sides.
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“Any midfield that’s got Beams, Rockliff, Rich, Zorko in it, those four, you’ve got to highly respect that,” Solomon told reporters at SUNS headquarters on Monday afternoon.
“Analysing and following them over the JLT Cup, they’ve been highly impressive so we feel it’s going to be a really efficient, effective stoppage team.
“Whoever gets that and gets ground position will go a long way to winning but we rate their midfield as high as any in the competition so that’s where we feel our biggest challenge is.”
The SUNS midfield bats a lot deeper than it has in previous years and will feature a number of new faces, as well as some familiar ones. Dual Brownlow medallist Gary Ablett will play his first AFL game since injuring his shoulder in the most recent QClash, while the combative David Swallow is also set for a long-awaited return.
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Add the run and carry of Aaron Hall and the experience of recruits Michael Barlow and Pearce Hanley and it’s hard not to see why the SUNS are backing themselves in to play to their strengths and come out victorious.
“Conversely you’re backing your own system and your own players. Having Gaz back and Dave Swallow, adding Pearce Hanley, Micky Barlow, these guys, there’s a lot of experience that comes in,” Solomon said.
“Although we highly respect one of the best midfields in the comp, we’re going to back our guys in the whole way and put some things in place that we think we can nullify them and then play to our strengths.”