It is one of football’s most famous goals … Collingwood’s Mick McGuane, in a 1994 Easter Monday blockbuster against Carlton in front of 85,000 fans at the MCG. Having received a handball from a centre bounce, he took off. Two bounces, a zig, three bounces, a zag, a balk, a seventh bounce … and a pin-point running shot on goal from 20m. Seven bounces and Goal of the Year in 19 seconds.

What chance you’ll see a repeat of anything like that today? Sadly, next to none. Which begs the question … what has happened to the running bounce in modern football?

In 2012, the first year of the 18-team national competition, there were 4152 bounces in 207 games at 20.1 per game. This year, through 114 games, there have been 1269 at 11.1 per game. And only 19 players have had more than a dozen.

And why are we asking?

Because, as the Round-by-Round Flashback reaches Round 14, it was in Round 14 2015 that Adam Saad had a club record 12 bounces in the SUNS’ 55-point win over North Melbourne at People First Stadium.

This equalled the SUNS best set in 2011 by inaugural SUNS vice-captain Nathan Bock and was then a personal best for Saad that he would replicate in 2017 and better in 2022 when he had 15 in a game for Carlton.

The all-time AFL game record is 20 running bounces set by Bock at Adelaide in 2009. Next best is 19 to the credit of Collingwood’s Heath Shaw (2019) and St.Kilda’s Jason Gram (2006), and the 18 of North Melbourne’s AFL games record-holder Brent Harvey (2000), Carlton’s Chris Yarran (2011) and the SUNS’ own Rhyce Shaw, who had 18 bounces for Sydney in 2009.                                              

Amazingly, despite playing only three years and 48 games with the SUNS, Saad, now at Carlton after a stint at Essendon, is the Gold Coast all-time leader for running bounces at 222. Next best is Jarrod Harbrow at 221 – in 192 games.

The SUNS’ leader year-by-year in bounces has been Harbrow (2011 and 2014), Gary Ablett (2012), Harley Bennell (2013), Saad (2015-16-17), Alex Sexton (2018), Lachie Weller (2019-2020), Oleg Markov (2021) and Noah Anderson (2022-23).

After 13 rounds this year Sexton and Anderson (9) head the SUNS list from Sam Closehy (8), Ben Ainsworth (7), Sam Flanders and Brayden Fiorini (6) and Joel Jeffrey (4). Seven players have had one or two and 21 players none at all.

The Saad record came in Rodney Eade’s 13th game at the SUNS helm as Charlie Dixon and Gary Ablett grabbed their own slice of club goal-kicking history.

Going into what was his 58th game, Dixon shared the club record for most goals in a game at six. He’d twice kicked a half dozen in 2013 and earlier in 2015, while Harley Bennell had done so in 2014.

The SUNS sat at the bottom of the ladder with a 1-11 record and on a seven-game losing streak as they welcomed to the coast a North side that was 11th at 6-6 but only a game plus percentage outside the top eight.

North’s Brent Harvey played his 397th game – almost four times as many as the SUNS, who had posted their 100th a week earlier. But from the moment Luke Russell  kicked the first goal five minutes in it was all Gold Coast.

They kicked the first five goals and were never headed as they turned a 5-5 to 3-6 halftime lead into a 19-11 (125) to 10-10 (70) win – at the time the fourth-biggest in club history.

Dixon picked up the three Brownlow Medal votes while Ablett’s 31 possessions, 11 clearances and three goals earned him two votes, and Aaron Hall received one vote for 20 possessions and three goals.

Ablett, in his 79th SUNS game and his first since a shoulder injury in Round 2 that year, became the first player to kick 100 goals for the club.

He pipped Tom Lynch, who went into the game on 99 goals but was held goalless. Next best at the time were Harley Bennell (88), Dixon (80) and Brandon Matera (68).

Ablett kicked one and three in his next two games to Lynch’s two and one, but when Ablett suffered a season-ending knee injury in Round 17 against Adelaide and Lynch kicked four the same day the 22-year-old key forward went to the top of the club goal-kicking list. And he’s still there.

Lynch equalled Dixon’s seven-goal single-game record in 2017 and broke it in 2018 when he kicked eight, which is still the club’s all-time best.

2014 – First Win v Geelong

Gary Ablett had played three times against his former Geelong club in 2011-12-13 - two at home and one in Geelong – and been an individual standout each time. He’d averaged 30.7 possessions, kicked four goals and polled twice in the Brownlow for three votes. But he’d copped three losses by 66 points, 14 points and 52 points.

He finally got the ‘W’ in Round 14 2014 at People First Stadium when the SUNS, 8th on the ladder, upset the 4th-placed Cats in magnificent fashion.

Down by 15 points midway through the third quarter, the SUNS kicked the next eight goals – four before the three-quarter time break and four after it. They won 17-16 (118) to 11-12 (78).

Ablett was a standout again with 33 possessions, eight tackles, nine clearances and a goal and polled two medal votes, but was upstaged by something very special from Harley Bennell, who had 27 possessions and kicked six goals for three votes.

The SUNS’ 40-point win was the club’s biggest against the Cats until the recent Round 10 game in Darwin, when then blitzed them by 64 points.

2020 – An Adopted Local’s 100th

In the crazy campaign that was the Covid year of 2020 the SUNS hosted North Melbourne at People First Stadium in Round 14. Except it was on Sunday 30 August – what would normally be the end of the home-and-away season.

With the League desperately trying to catch up on 12 weeks of inactivity between the traditional Round 1 on 19-20-21-22 March and a rescheduled Round 2 on 11-12-13-14 June, all normal rules were thrown out the window.

With CEO Gill McLachlan saying a thousand times (and more) how the game had to be agile and flexible to get through the Covid disruption, short breaks and midweek games became the norm as football found a way to survive … and thrive.

In Round 14 2020 the SUNS played the Roos at 6.10pm on a Sunday night to close out a round which had seen a Thursday twilight game at Adelaide Oval between Hawthorn and Adelaide, a Thursday night game Richmond v West Coast and a Friday night game W/Bulldogs v Geelong at People First Stadium, Saturday afternoon games Port v Sydney at Adelaide Oval and Fremantle v GWS at Perth Stadium, a Saturday night game Melbourne v StKilda in Alice Springs and a Sunday afternoon game at the Gabba – between Carlton and Collingwood.

In 100 years people will look back at the fixture and think “what the hell …. ?” But that was 2020.

Sadly, it meant there was no great fuss or fanfare as Lachie Weller played his 100th game.

It was a milestone lost in the Covid chaos, but a significant one for a player who has filled an important role in club history. He was a SUNS Academy product who didn’t qualify for priority selection to the SUNS and instead went to Fremantle via pick #13 in the 2014 National Draft.

It was the year Paddy McCartin went to St.Kilda at #1, Melbourne took Christian Petracca at #2 and Angus Brayshaw at #3, and Gold Coast picked up Peter Wright at #8. At #12 Richmond took Corey Ellis, later to play with the Gold Coast, before Fremantle swooped on Weller.

He’d played three years and 47 games at the Dockers, including two complete seasons in 2016-17, and was offered a four-year contract extension to stay in purple. But as the trade period drew to a close he decided he didn’t want to stay in Perth … he wanted to come ‘home’.

Originally a Burnie boy in northern Tasmania, he’d moved to the Gold Coast at 15 in 2011 when older brother Maverick was a foundation signing with the SUNS, and had grown up a ‘coastie’.

So at short notice SUNS CEO Mark Evans and coach Stuart Dew organised a late night tour of the club’s facilities and took him and then partner now wife Nicola for a clandestine dinner. And in literally 48 hours the deal was done pending a trade with Fremantle.

It went right down to the last 15 minutes of the trade period, with the SUNS eventually giving up pick #2 in the 2017 Draft, which ultimately became Andrew Brayshaw.

And while some would say they club paid ‘overs’ it was a significant moment about more than just trade value. This was a ‘local’ product wanting to come home. At a time when the club had lost more than a few players to interstate Weller’s want to play at the coast and the confidence his message entailed was critical.

So, while ordinarily Weller’s 53rd game for the SUNS would be just another game, his 100th AFL game was special. And happily he celebrated with a 63-point win over North in what was the 54th and last game for the Kangaroos’ Majak Daw.

The SUNS won every quarter and banked four precious premiership points 12-19 (91) to 4-4 (28), conceding what is still the lowest score against the club.

Playing against ex-SUN Aaron Hall for the first time, the home side held the Roos goalless from 18 minutes into the second quarter kicked as Hugh Greenwood, now at North, picked up three Brownlow Medal votes for 23 possessions (16 contested), six tackles and seven clearances – all team high.

Ben Ainsworth also had 23 possessions and kicked one goal to earn the first two medal votes of his career, and Alex Sexton earned one vote for four goals – as many as the entire North side kicked.

2023 – A Ballard Century

An early scouting report on Charlie Ballard told how the Sturt Under 16s player of 2015 was overlooked for the Under 18s as a bottom-age because he was “too short”. And then he grew. And grew some more. A total of 15cm in less than two years.

But he was still primarily a wingman, albeit a 180cm wingman who was partway through his massive growth spurt. He played four games on the wing for South Australia in the 2017 Under 18 championships, picked up premiership medals with the Sturt Under 18s and Reserves, and ran a slippery 3.05 seconds from the 20m sprint at the Draft Combine. Quick for a player of his size.

So he went into the draft as something of a wild card. And part of a proud sporting heritage at Adelaide’s Sacred Heart College, which counts among its former students AFL stars Matthew Pavlich, Chad and Kane Cornes, Andrew Mackie, Nick Smith, Hamish Hartlett, Alex Neal-Bullen, John Noble and Will Day, plus tennis pair Darren Cahill and John Fitzgerald, horse racing great Bart Sinclair and Test cricketer David Sincock.

After Gold Coast drafted Wil Powell at #19 in a draft held at the Sydney Showgrounds they sat back and watched. And waited as Callum Coleman-Jones went at #20, followed by Oscar Allen (West Coast) at #21, Lachie Fogarty (Geelong) at #22, Will Walker (North) at #23, Tim Kelly (Geelong) at #24, Noah Balter (Richmond) at #25, Liam Ryan (West Coast) at #26 and Brent Daniels (GWS) at #27.

GWS got a bargain in Sam Taylor at #28, before Charlie Spargo (Melbourne) went at #29, Tom DeKoning (Carlton) at #30, Bailey Fritsch (Melbourne at #31, Brayden Ainsworth (West Coast) at #32, Tom McCartin (Sydney) at #33, Patrick Naish (Richmond) at #34, Oscar Clavarino (StKilda) at #35, Charlie Constable (Geelong) at #36, Harrison Petty (#Melbourne) at #37, and Jack Petruccelle (West Coast) at #38.

The SUNS, with their hearts set on Ballard well before the draft got this deep, waited anxiously. At #39 it was Nathan Murphy (Collingwood), followed by Andrew McPherson (Adelaide) at #40 with a pick that was traded from the SUNS. At #41 Brisbane took Toby Wooller who did not play at AFL level.

At #42, with a pick that had originally been part of the Lachie Weller trade from Fremantle to Gold Coast, Ballard became a Sun.

He debuted in Round 7 2018, quickly became a SUNS regular, and in Round 15 2023, when the SUNS played an improving Carlton at the MCG, he became the 18th player to reach 100 games for the SUNS, and the second after Brandon Matera to ‘raise the bat’ at headquarters.

Ballard played 100% game time, as has become a common thing with the athletic key defender, but after kicking the first two goals of the game the SUNS conceded the next 12 and lost by 59 points.

He’d missed just 12 games going from #1 to #100, second only to Touk Miller’s 10 games at the time, and still third on that list after Jack Lukosius last year squeezed in between Miller and Ballard at 11 games.