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NEAFL: Gold Coast keep home final dreams alive

The Gold Coast SUNS have upstaged the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba on Saturday, ending the home side’s record 10-match winning streak with an epic seven-point victory.

The SUNS jumped the NT Thunder into fourth spot, with Jarrad Grant spearheading the 16.15 (111) to 16.8 (104) victory with seven majors.

Grant was outstanding, kicking five goals in the third quarter and using his pace against a tall and cumbersome Lions defence.

He proved the difference in a match which could see them host their inevitable NEAFL Elimination Final against the Thunder if results next week fall their way, rather than having to make the trek to Darwin in the first week of finals.

Mitch Hallahan (38 disposals, 14 marks, one goal) was outstanding in winning and controlling the football for the SUNS, whilst Matt Shaw (32 disposals, seven marks, one goal) provided his usual run.

GC Academy member Brayden Crossley (33 hit outs, 17 disposals) proved he could match it with the Lions big boys, whilst Lions prospects Connor Ballenden (16 disposals, seven marks) and Campbell Walker (17 disposals, two goals) were also impressive.

The first quarter was a grind, but the Lions got ahead late to take a seven point lead into the break.

The SUNS inched ahead in the second quarter with four consecutive behinds but were made to rue the missed opportunities, the Lions piling on four goals in seven minutes later in the term, including two in two minutes to Walker.

But the third quarter was the ‘Jarrad Grant Show’, the wiry former Western Bulldog carving up the Lions defence and slotting five of his seven goals – one of which he kicked without his boot on.

It provided the spark the SUNS needed to pull a much needed upset out of the hat.

The Lions stole the lead back early in the fourth with goals to Oscar McInerney and Jono Freeman, but the SUNS soon regathered it with a goal to academy prospect Bailey Scott.

A goal to Will Brodie from a tight angle as the clock ticked into red time put the SUNS two straight kicks adrift, before a push in the back and fifty metre penalty to Matt Hammelmann put the Lions six points behind.

Brandon Matera iced the game with an aerobatic snap whilst being slung to ground, and a late crumbing goal to Tom Cutler was too little, too late to overcome the energetic SUNS.

Jesse Lonergan (28 disposals), Brayden Fiorini (26 disposals, two goals) and former Lion Michael Rischitelli (21 disposals) helped the SUNS gain the ascendency in the middle.

Ben Keays started his career at the Lions with strong performances in the NEAFL, and it was a return to that mode for the Morningside junior with 32 disposals and five tackles.

Josh Schache, who was dropped to the NEAFL for Michael Close, was good in patches and finished with 13 disposals, five marks and two goals.

Matt Hammelmann led the Lions goalkickers with three goals.

For the SUNS to ensure they hang on to fourth spot they will have to defeat the first-placed Sydney Swans at Metricon Stadium next Saturday afternoon. If they lose the Thunder can take the spot back with a victory over Aspley, and with it a home elimination final.

Meanwhile the Lions will have to defeat the GIANTS in Sydney to solidify second spot, if they don’t then a big win to Sydney Uni over Redland could be enough to close the percentage gap and see the Lions drop to third.


Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast at the Gabba

BRISBANE 4.2 9.7 12.7 16.8 (104)
GOLD COAST 3.1 6.6 13.9 16.15 (111)

Gold Coast: J Grant 7 B Fiorini 2 B Scott K Brooksby W Brodie M Hallahan B Foster M Shaw B Matera.
Brisbane: M Hammelmann 3 C Walker 2 T Cutler 2 J Schache 2 O McInerney 2 L Dawson B Grewar J Freeman Jack Clayton L O’Sullivan.

Gold Coast: M Hallahan J Grant J Dawson B Crossley C Graham M Shaw.
Brisbane: B Keays C Walker C Lyons M Hammelmann M Eagles T Cutler.