What were you doing exactly 3000 days ago on Sunday?

It’s a crazy question, but if they think long enough about it Touk Miller, Alex Sexton, Sam Day and Sean Lemmens will work it out. Especially if you give them a time and place. Because it was a special day in Gold Coast SUNS history.

On Saturday 26 March 2016 the Gold Coast beat Essendon by 61 points at People First Stadium. It was the second time they beat the Bombers, having done so on 22 August 2015. And the last.

The big win came at a time when Essendon were still picking up the pieces of the supplements saga that saw 34 players suspended for two years in January 2016, backdated to March 2015, and captain Jobe Watson stripped of the 2012 Brownlow Medal.

Ex-West Coast premiership coach John Worsfold took charge to steer the rebuild, and coached the club for the first time as Michael Rischitelli celebrated his 200th AFL game.

Aaron Hall had 36 possessions and kicked two goals for three Brownlow Medal votes, Tom Lynch kicked four goals for two votes and Gary Ablett 34 possessions for one vote.

Of the current SUNS playing list only Miller, Sexton, Day and Lemmens were in that side, after Miller, Day and Lemmens had played in a two-point win over Essendon 216 days earlier, when Nick Malceski, now on the coaching panel, kicked the winner in a game most meritorious for the fact that Gary Ablett did not play.

So Miller, Sexton, Day and Lemmens as the only current SUNS players to have tasted success against Essendon in Gold Coast Colours.

Jarrod Witts did so once at Collingwood 10 years ago, Ben Long once at St.Kilda, Tom Berry once at Brisbane, and Sam Collins likewise in his second game at Fremantle in 2016, when he had a still personal-best 24 possessions.

Through 14 years in the AFL the club has endured a 2-1-11 record against Essendon, better only than the 1-14 record against Port Adelaide.

It is one of those statistics that underline the challenge and opportunity awaiting the SUNS when they take on the Bombers at People First Stadium at 4pm on Sunday.

Essendon will visit the coast for the first since the Covid season of 2020 as the most improved side in the 2024 competition, with an 8-2-1 record under second-year coach Brad Scott that sees them second on the AFL ladder.

They’ve beaten Hawthorn (14th), StKilda (15th), Western Bulldogs (11th), Adelaide (12th), West Coast (16th), GWS (5th), North Melbourne (18th) and Richmond (17th), drawn with defending premiers Collingwood (7th) and lost to Sydney (1st) and Port Adelaide (3rd) in Rounds 2-4.

It was on their last visit to the SUNS’ home in Round 11 2020 that the clubs split the points after the Gold Coast led at every change and by 18 points early in the last quarter only to see Essendon get six points before Ben King locked it up twice in the last five minutes.

Izak Rankine had a 52m set shot to win it 15seconds from time but left it short and wide, and in the ensuring pandemonium in the pocket Lemmens was run down from behind trying to make something out of nothing and Brandon Ellis had a last-gasp snap smothered off the boot.

As the SUNS look to bounce back from a 29-point loss to Carlton in Melbourne last weekend it won’t be difficult for them to identify statistical danger-man No.1.

In 10 games against the SUNS he has an 8-1-1 record and hasn’t lost since 2014. He has had a club-high seven 30-possession games against the SUNS, averages a career-high 30.3 possessions per game against the SUNS, and has polled a club-high nine Brownlow Medal votes against the SUNS.

He’s a three-time All-Australian and four-time club champion who since 2015 has finished 4-1-4-3-1-2-1-2-1 in the Essendon best & fairest. And if you listen to the Melbourne media he’s the front-runner for the All-Australian captaincy this year.

Zach Merrett, who in Round 16 2021 captained Essendon against Gold Coast to become the third-youngest match day captain Essendon history, has been in scintillating form through 11 games and is fourth in voting for the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award.

He has polled coaches votes in eight of the first 11, including three ‘10’s’ against Western Bulldogs, Adelaide and Collingwood, and is fourth overall with 50 votes, behind Sydney’s Isaac Heeney (71), Collingwood’s Nick Daicos (59) and Fremantle’s Caleb Serong (55).

Next best for Essendon are Nic Martin (23), Andrew McGrath (21) and Sam Durham (17).

The Bombers have two of the top six possession-winners in the League this year, with Martin (337) fourth behind Western Bulldogs’ Adam Treloar (357), Serong (355) and Nick Daicos (350) and ahead of North’s Harry Sheezel (329) and Merrett (319). Gold Coast’s Noah Anderson (314) in eighth overall and Sam Flanders (302) 14th despite missing last week’s loss to Carlton through illness and Miller (295) 16th.

Essendon’s Kyle Langford, with 28 goals in 11 games, will head to the coast fifth on a Coleman Medal leaderboard in which Ben King (32) is second behind Carlton’s Charlie Curnow (33), with Essendon Round 11 200-gamer Jake Stringer (23) equal eighth.

The history between the clubs sees the SUNS still yet to beat the Bombers in six visits to their Marvel Stadium home while having posted a 2-1-4 record at People First Stadium.

The 11th game between the clubs will forever be the asterisk game in the record books – it was played at a virtually empty Kardinia Park in Geelong due to Covid restrictions in Round 22 2021.

Gary Ablett holds the record for most possessions in a game between the two clubs at 45. He also has had three 30-plus games against Essendon, while Miller has had four and Aaron Hall had three. David Zaharakis has had most for Essendon at 40, and with three 30-plus games is second behind Merrett on the Essendon major ball-winner list.

Tom Lynch holds Gold Coast record for most player to have kicked four goals in a game against Essendon – he did so twice – while the Essendon equivalent is another good trivia question.

He played only 60 games in total, and only two against the SUNS, but had a day out at Marvel Stadium in the first meeting between the clubs, kicking eight in a 139-point Essendon win. A redhead known for his orange boots, he was de-listed 16 months after career-best haul. Paul Reimers.

Ablett, with six medal votes for the SUNS against the Bombers, shares with ex-Bomber Brendon Goddard second spot on the aggregate vote list between the clubs behind Merrett. Lynch (5), Hall (4), Hugh Greenwood (3), Miller (2), Lachie Weller (1), Dion Prestia (1) and Matt Rowell (1) have also figured in medal voting with current Essendon players Darcy Parish (5), Dyson Heppell (5), Stringer (5), Kyle Langford (2), Mason Redman (2), Andrew McGrath (1) and Sam Draper (1).

Who is the only ex-Essendon player recruited by Gold Coast? Jacob Townsend was SUNS player #130 when he played two games in 2021 to close out a 62-game career that took in GWS (28 games), Richmond (20) and Essendon (12) and included a flag with the Tigers in 2017.

Ex-SUN Peter Wright is set to play for Essendon against his former club for the third time this week, having kicked two goals against them at Marvel in 2022 after going goalless in his first ‘reunion’ in the game at Geelong.

There will be another familiar face in the Essendon camp – Matt Rosa, a 168-gamer at West Coast who played 39 games with the SUNS from 2016-18 and finished his AFL career in China in 2018, is in his first season as the Bombers’  AFL Talent and Operations Manager.