Jarrod Witts was so sore on Saturday night that taking his boots off was a battle. But still he sang the SUNS song with a little extra gusto to celebrate a special personal moment that was 2809 days in the waiting.

While the 11-point win over Collingwood in front of a packed People First Stadium was being touted as the most significant in SUNS history, it was that and more for the SUNS co-captain. 

It was the ex-Collingwood ruckman’s first win in eight games against his former club since he was traded to the Gold Coast on 20 October 2016. 

And it was also the night in which Witts went past Gary Ablett to become as the longest-serving SUNS skipper. 

Having shared the captaincy with David Swallow from 2019-21 and with Touk Miller since 2022, a 31-year-old Witts notched his 97thgame with the (c) beside his name after Ablett led the club 96 times from 2011-16.

Fittingly, and not surprisingly, Witts played a massive role in the character-filled win despite a crunching blow to his back late in the game which looked at first like it had ended his night, and could have cost the SUNS the win.

Witts copped a knee in the back from Collingwood captain Darcy Moore in a marking contest midway through the final term in strikingly similar circumstances to the manner in which Moore ended the season of Melbourne’s Christian Petracca in Round 13.

Unwittingly, the Moore knee left Petracca with a Grade 5 lacerated spleen, a punctured lung and broken ribs, and needing extensive hospital treatment and a stint in intensive care.

Witts battled on bravely for several minutes immediately after the collision, but was clearly incapacitated and, from the opposite side of the ground to the interchange, he trudged off gingerly to see the medical staff.

For all money his night was done as he headed down into the dressing rooms with medical staff.

But to the surprise of most, he reappeared 10 minutes later and played a key role in the last few minutes as Ben Long kicked the penultimate goal to break a run of six consecutive Collingwood goals, and, with a clever tap on, set up a Ben Ainsworth snap for the winner. 

Witts had 32 hit-outs, 19 possessions, three clearances and seven score involvements to get the better of in-form Collingwood ruckman Darcy Cameron, but his leadership and his courageous return to battle were just as important.

It was a night anyone connected to the SUNS will always remember fondly. 

The sell-out crowd of 23,029 was the third-biggest at PFS, and with an equal split of SUNS and Magpies supporters it was positively electric. 

Bodhi Uwland, Sam Closehy, Will Graham and Joel Jeffrey played against Collingwood for the first time and Tom Berry did likewise for the first time in SUNS colors in an atmosphere which long-time locals said had never been seen at home before. 

Like this quintet and Witts, Matt Rowell, Mac Andrew, Ben Long and Bailey Humphrey enjoyed their first win against the Pies after the Round 16 SUNS team had gone into the game with a combined 18-77 record in red and yellow against the black and white.

Alex Sexton had beaten the Pies three times previously, and David Swallow and Sam Day twice, but no other SUNS player had done so more than once.

Now Sexton is not only celebrating a club record fourth win over Collingwood but his 50th win overall. He’s the third SUNS player to this mark, and, having reached it in his 176th game, is the quickest ahead of Touk Miller (180) and David Swallow (186).

Anderson’s 39 possessions was the second-highest of his career and his seventh 30-plus haul of the year, while Sam Flanders, with 33 possessions, had his fifth 30-plus game in a row and his ninth of the year. 

Now, having not topped 30 in his first 37 games, Flanders has 13 in his last 15 and sits seventh on the all-time club list behind Ablett (64), Miller (41), Anderson (22), Brayden Fiorini (15), Swallow (15) and Dion Prestia (15).

Ainsworth had a career-best 28 possessions against Collingwood to go with eight score involvements, and Will Graham had his first 20-possession game with 22 in 65% game time.

The SUNS also posted their third win in four years over the defending premiers, having not done so in the first 11 times they faced the side that had won the flag the year before.

And they kicked 100 points against Collingwood for the first time, which leaves Richmond as the only opposition club against which the SUNS have not yet kicked a ‘ton’.

It was the perfect result for Swallow in his history-making 100th game at PFS – he is the first person to that mark - and for Charlie Ballard in his 50th home game.