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NEAFL: SUNS secure Prelim Final place

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25: Matt Shaw of the Suns celebrates after kicking a goal during the 2017 AFL round 14 match between the St Kilda Saints and the Gold Coast Suns at Etihad Stadium on June 25, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/AFL Media)

It was the Jarrad Grant show again on Saturday with eight goals helping his side to a 39-point Elimination Final win over NT Thunder at Metricon Stadium.

The win ends their 0-11 record against the Territory, bringing with it an end to the stellar career of NT stalwart Cameron Ilett, as his Thunder crashed to a 19.9 (123) to 12.12 (84) defeat against the daring SUNS.

Ilett, 32, was given a guard of honour as he walked from the field, a fitting tribute to the man who amassed 132 NEAFL games for the Thunder.

Grant, who has slotted a cool 15 goals in his last two NEAFL matches, was pleased with both the team’s and his own performance.

“A lot of hard work from not only our listed boys but a lot of academy boys that have been really really super this year, have taken leaps and bounds this year from last year,” he said.

“I’ve just been lucky the last two weeks to be on the end of a few.”

The wiry forward has every confidence his side can storm the fortress when they take on the Sydney Swans in next week’s Preliminary Final at Blacktown.

“We haven’t beaten them this year, but we only really need to beat them once,” Grant said.

“We’re taking a lot of confidence out of the last month of footy that we’ve played, we’ll get some boys back from the AFL team that play tonight.

“We’re going down there full of confidence and the opportunity to play in a grand final the week after is really striving these guys.”

The SUNS controlled possession in the bruising contest, leading the disposals 415-284 and moving the ball by hand to run through, over and around the Thunder.

As well as Grant, Matt Shaw (39 disposals, six tackles, five inside 50s) was a driving force for the SUNS, his gut-running setting the standard with two early goals. He finished with three, his last goal coming as a welcome settler at the start of the last quarter with the game still in the balance.

In the second stanza the match became the battle of the crafty forwards, with Grant and Adam Sambono exploding to life. Grant booted two in two minutes to start the quarter, but not to be outdone, Sambono responded with two in two minutes of his own.

Scores were locked up at 48-all with minutes to go in the first half, before SUNS Academy prodigy Brayden Crossley unleashed with a laser guided missile from 50m to put the Gold Coast ahead by a goal at half-time.

Emmanuel Baru’s monstrous hip and shoulder on Justin Beugelaar midway through the third term set up another goal to Crossley, and from that earth-shattering bump the SUNS found their stride and began to kick away.

A fifth goal to Grant not long after put them out to a 23-point lead, and making matters worse for the Thunder they lost Jack Shannahan to a dislocated shoulder.

But the Territory boys didn’t throw in the towel, a goal to Tony Olango steadying the ship as the Thunder regained control of the tempo.

A sixth goal to Grant put the SUNS 20-points up, but Olango responded, loping inside forward 50 to kick a much needed goal.

The Thunder went into three quarter time 13-points behind, needing a big finish to keep their season and superstar Ilett’s career alive.

But the SUNS held their nerve, responding empathically each time the Thunder goaled in the last quarter. In the end they ran away with it, the margin not doing justice to the NT’s hearty performance.

Jesse Lonergan (38 disposals, seven clearances, six tackles, six marks) was terrific through the midfield, while Josh Schoenfeld (30 disposals, seven marks), Ryan Davis (24 disposals, one goal) and Jack Scrimshaw (24 disposals) were also impressive.

Seventeen-year-old SUNS Academy youngster Jacob Heron showed his mettle, the Cairns junior turning in a breakout performance to finish with 26 disposals, 12 marks and eight inside 50s.

Thunder skipper Shannon Rioli tried his heart out with 27 disposals, 10 clearances and two goals, and with the help of Abe Ankers (25 disposals, five inside 50s), Richard Tambling (11 disposals, seven clearances) and Matt Rosier (23 disposals, six clearances) the Thunder were able to dominate the clearances 49-34.

The SUNS will travel south to Blacktown International Sportspark, where they’ll face the Sydney Swans in a Preliminary Final next Saturday at 11am.



Gold Coast Suns v NT Thunder at Metricon Stadium

GOLD COAST 3.4 8.6 13.6 19.9 (123)
NT THUNDER 1.4 7.6 10.11 12.12 (84)

Gold Coast: 
J Grant 8, M Shaw 3, B Crossley 2, J Dawson 2, D Charlesworth, R Davis, K Sheers, B Scott
NT Thunder: D Ewing 3, A Sambono 3, S Rioli 2, T Olango 2, J Shannahan, N Yarran

Gold Coast: 
M Shaw, R Davis, J Grant, J Dawson, J Lonergan, B Crossley
NT Thunder: A Ankers, C Ilett, S Smith, M Coombes, N Yarran