Darwin is Australia’s smallest, wettest and most northerly capital city, famous for ‘Cyclone Tracy’ on Christmas Day 1974 that killed 66 people and caused $837 million damage, destroying more than 70% of the city’s buildings, including 80% of houses, and left half of the then population of 47,000 homeless.

Today it is home to about 150,000 people, and a home-away-from-home for the Gold Coast SUNS of increasing fondness after delivering four wins in the last two years.

Indeed, since the start of 2022 it’s been the happiest of hunting grounds and has been the scene of more SUNS wins at any venue except People First Stadium.

Gold Coast have played in six of 26 AFL games played at Darwin’s Marrara Oval, now known as TIO Stadium, since the AFL took the game there in 2004.

After one-off losses to the Western Bulldogs by 38 points in 2012 and Carlton by 33 points in 2020, the SUNS have had wonderfully successful two-game visits over back-to-back weekends in the last two years.

They beat Hawthorn (67 points) and North Melbourne (62 points) in 2022, and the Bulldogs (seven points) and Adelaide (25 points) in 2023.

And for the next two weekends it will be home to the SUNS again as they play North Melbourne on Saturday night and Geelong next Thursday night (16 May).

It is a venue that holds special memories for Jack Lukosius, who kicked consecutive bags of five goals there last year to share the ground record with, among others, SUNS assistant coach Brad Miller, who kicked five for Melbourne against Port Adelaide at Marrara in 2010.

West Coast’s Jack Darling (2015), Port’s Paul Stewart (2012), Western Bulldogs’ Brad Johnson (2007) and Carlton’s Brendan Fevola (2005) also have kicked five goals at Marrara.

Port’s Kane Cornes holds the possessions record at the ground, having had 41 in 2008 to head the Bulldogs Ryan Griffen’s 40 in 2013, while Touk Miller has had the SUNS’ highest possession haul in Darwin with 32 against North in 2022.

It’s the club’s only 30-possession game in the Northern Territory capital.

Miller also heads the SUNS’ Brownlow Medal vote count in Darwin with Matt Rowell. Both have polled twice for four votes, including a best-on-ground three-voter.

Lukosius has also polled twice for three votes – equal with Noah Anderson and Brandon Ellis – while Connor Budarick (2), Lachie Weller (2) and Matt Shaw (1) have also polled in Darwin.

It is a venue that holds a special memory, too, for Alex Sexton, who debuted there in 2012, and Andrew McQualter and Charlie Constable, who played their first SUNS game in Darwin.

Miller and David Swallow celebrated their 150th games in Darwin, Nick Holman his 100th AFL game, and Rowell his 50th.

Eight SUNS players hail from Darwin – Jared Brennan and Steven May (Southern Districts), Liam Patrick, Joel Jeffrey and Lloyd Johnston (Wanderers), Ben Long (St.Mary’s) and Malcolm Rosas (Darwin) – plus the yet-to-play Sandy Brock (Palmerston) and Will Rowlands (Southern Districts) and 2023 listee Jed Anderson (Darwin), who did not play for the club after 99 games at Hawthorn and North.

Collectively those who have played for the SUNS at AFL level this year have a 67-17 win/loss record at Marrara, with Ned Moyle and 2024 debutants Jed Walter, Will Graham, Sam Clohesy, Ethan Read and Jake Rogers yet to play there.

Only Sexton and Sam Flanders are yet to win there. Both are 0-1.

The Stadium, which has an official capacity of 12,500, includes a 4550-seat grandstand named after ex-Richmond great Maurice Rioli, and the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Centre, located behind the goals and named in honor of the ex-Essendon star.

The stadium, built in 1991, hosted the 2020 ‘Dreamtime at the G’ game between Essendon and Melbourne when Covid forced the game away from the MCG, and has hosted one NRL game each year since 2012.

It’s also an international cricket venue,  and in July 2003 captain Steve Waugh and Darren Lehmann scored centuries as Australia beat Bangladesh by an innings and 132 runs in the first Test match at the venue.

In 2004 Australia beat Sri Lanka by 149 runs in the second Darwin Test match, before posting a 3-0 one-day international series win over Bangladesh in 2008, and in July 2007 the Australian women’s team beat New Zealand in Darwin 3-2 in a 50-over series and by one run in a T20 international.