Saturday 23 April 2011 will forever sit fondly in the hearts of Gold Coast SUNS fans … it was the day of the club’s first win in the AFL. And 13 years on it remains one of the very best.

The SUNS were 0-3 as they trekked to Football Park in Adelaide in what was Round 5 to take on a Port Adelaide side that had come from 27 points down to beat the Adelaide Crows a week earlier, and left in a state of hysteria after a late winner from Luke Russell.

But it took a massive comeback after they were 28 points down at three-quarter time … and only that close after they kicked the last two goals of the third term through Russell and Gary Ablett.

Now 284 games on it is still the club’s biggest final quarter turnaround for a win, equalled in Round 17 2022 when they were 28 points down at three-quarter time against Richmond at home and got home on a last-second set shot from Noah Anderson.

Having lost their first three games by 119 points, 71 points and 90 points, the SUNS were at long odds as Jack Hutchins made his AFL debut and Sam Iles, who’d played seven games with Collingwood in 2006-07, made his first appearance in red and yellow after a break of 1377 days.

The SUNS had come under terrible fire in the media during the week, and when they trailed 7-9 to 14-7 to a Port side coached by Matthew Primus three minutes before three-quarter it looked like the bookies had it right.

A 55m running goal from Ablett out of the centre gave them some hope before Russell, who had started as the substitute, took a handpass from Charlie Dixon and snapped truly right on the three-quarter-time siren to make it 9-9 to 14-7 at the last change.

Dixon, who three weeks earlier had kicked the first two goals in SUNS history, pulled down a huge overhead mark to goal two minutes into the final stanza before Jackson Trengove replied for the Power. And then the unthinkable happened.

Dixon took another contested mark and converted from 40m on a 45-degree angle before giving a handpass to Brandon Matera for him to kick his third. It was back to 16 points.

Harley Bennell kicked truly from 48m after a free kick, and then it was Matera again with his fourth on the run from 20m after slick handballs from Jared Brennan and Ablett. The home crowd of 21,287 was in shock. It was a point the difference.

Ex-Labrador forward Daniel Stewart kicked a behind for Port before Josh Fraser did likewise for Gold Coast. Twenty-six minute played and still a point the difference.

But in a nightmare he will never forget, Jasper Pittard, playing his fifth game for Port, went to play on from the kick-in and was brilliantly smothered by Bennell. In the result scramble Matera made a critical contest before the ball spilled to Russell to snapped from 20m on his left, just sneaking it inside the left goal post. Gold Coast by five points.

There was still 2min 29sec on the clock. Every contest was crucial, and just before the final siren Port’s Justin Westhoff marked at half forward. It all came down to one kick, but to the delight of SUNS players and fans he sliced his 48m shot to the right for a behind.

It was Gold Coast 15-14 (104) to 15-11 (101).

Alastair Lynch declared in commentary his former Brisbane teammate Michael Rischitelli was best afield with 31 possessions, including a career-best 20 contested possessions, nine clearances and a goal in a stellar performance.

But he had to be content with two Brownlow Medal votes as the umpires gave three to Ablett, who had 26 possessions (eight contested), two clearances a goal. Matera, with 21 possessions and four goals, received one vote to round out what were the club’s first Brownlow votes.

Russell’s two-goal cameo was critical as was the ruck domination of veteran Fraser and fourth-gamer Zac Smith, who combined to give the SUNS a 44-23 edge in hit-outs which converted to a 45-26 domination in clearances. Brennan had 23 possessions, a game-high nine tackles, eight clearances and a goal.

The first winning Gold Coast side in notional positions was:-

B: Jarrod Harbrow, Nathan Bock, Seb Tape
HB: Danny Stanley, Trent McKenzie, Karmichael Hunt
C: Harley Bennell, Michael Rischitelli, Daniel Harris
HF: David Swallow, Daniel Gorringe, Mav Weller
F: Zac Smith, Charlie Dixon, Brandon Matera
R: Josh Fraser, Jared Brennan, Gary Ablett.
INT: Josh Toy, Sam Iles, Jack Hutchins, Luke Russell (sub).
Coach: Guy McKenna

The SUNS’ first win was an obvious standout to headline the Round 5 highlight’s year-by-year.

Other memorable Round 5 moments included:

2013 – Club Record Score & Six Goals

The SUNS posted what is still the club’s highest AFL score when they kicked 21-22 (148) to GWS’ 17-8 (104) in Round 5 2013 at Manuka Oval in Canberra.

They piled on 8-4 to 4-2 in the final quarter, with Charlie Dixon posting the club’s first six-goal haul.

In his 27th game the former Cairns basketballer had 16 possessions, nine marks - four contested and six inside 50 – to go with 6-2 to collect his first three-vote rating in the Brownlow Medal.

Zac Smith earned two votes for 14 possessions, three goals and 21 hit-outs, while Gary Ablett picked up one vote for 32 possessions and three goals. Jarrod Harbrow (26 possessions), Matt Shaw (26 possessions) and fifth-gamer Jaeger O’Meara (25 possessions, two goals) were other standouts.

Eighteen weeks later, in Round 23, the SUNS kicked 22-14 (146) to beat GWS again by 83 points in the club’s only other score beyond 140 points and their biggest all-time win.

2015 – A Record Q-Clash Win

There have been a string of standout moments as the SUNS have built a 7-18 record overall against the Lions in Q-Clash football, but Round 5 was extra special. It was the club’s biggest win against their arch rivals up the highway.

Both sides were 0-4 going into their ninth meeting on a Saturday afternoon at People First Stadium, Without a win in their first four games, Josh Glenn and Henry Schade debuted in Rodney Eade’s fifth game at the helm.

Scores were level at quarter-time but the SUNS out-scored the Lions 16-7 to 5-12 from that point on to win by 64 points – 18-10 (118) to 7-12 (54) – without the injured Gary Ablett.

Charlie Dixon kicked another six goals for three more Brownlow Medal votes and the Marcus Ashcroft Medal, while Harley Bennell’s 31 possessions and two goals earned him two votes, and Adam Saad, in just his fifth game, had 26 possessions for his first Brownlow vote.

Tom Lynch kicked three goals and Jack Martin two goals while Dion Prestia (28 possessions, one goal), Jarrod Harbrow (26 possessions), Kade Kolodjashnij (24 possessions) and Michael Rischitelli (22 possessions) also had a day one.

Glenn, drafted with pick #5 in the 2014 rookie draft from SANFL club Central Districts, had 21 possessions in a debut record that would stand until Sam Clohesy had 22 possessions in his first game last weekend.

Oddly, though, he played only five games before informing the club at the end of the season he no longer wanted to play at AFL level. He returned to Centrals in 2017 and later switched to Norwood, but in 2019 he was banned for four years after two anabolic steroids were found in a sample taken after a SANFL game in 2018.

2018 – Another Q-Clash Win

Any Gold Coast win over Brisbane is a special win … as it was in Round 5 2018 at the Gabba.

It was an improver’s handicap, with the SUNS coming off hefty back-to-back losses to West Coast and Fremantle in Perth and the Lions licking their wounds after a 93-point loss to Richmond.

With Stuart Dew in his fifth game at the helm, the SUNS led at every change – by 11 points, 14 points and 15 points – but had to survive a late scare to win 11-10 (76) to 10-11 (71).

After Brisbane kicked the last three goals of the final term Cam Rayner had a chance to win the game for the home side with the last kick but came up short.

Brayden Fiorini  (27 possessions and two goals) received three Brownlow votes and Touk Miller (21 possessions) picked up two votes and the Ashcroft Medal.


The SUNS have a 5-8 record in Round 5 games overall, while other Round 5 debutants have been Kyal Horsley (2012) and Dan Currie and Jarrad Grant (2016).