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NEAFL: SUNS eager for Sydney challenge

Gold Coast SUNS coach Stephen Daniel is hoping that it will be fourth time lucky when his side takes on Sydney this weekend in an attempt to make the club’s first NEAFL Grand Final.

The Gold Coast have not beaten the Swans this year, losing to them on three occasions, the last of which was two weeks ago when the SUNS were only three goals down late in the third before the Swans stormed home 67-point winners.

Other than two losses against Sydney, Gold Coast has won every game since their bye in Round 12 to hit the finals series full of momentum.

The best of those wins was the Elimination Final last week, when they beat NT Thunder by 39 points, recording their first ever win in a final.

Speaking after the match, Daniel told the players and staff were elated to to advance to a Preliminary Final, and was particularly pleased with the contribution of their SUNS Academy members.

“It was just great to get a home final and to win it,” he said.

“I’m really happy for the players and for them as a group. Now we get to go another week, and who knows what is going to happen.

“The academy kids keep fronting up and playing their role for team, which is all that we ask.”

Gold Coast has featured in three NEAFL finals series since 2011 without much success, but this year presents an opportunity to gain valuable finals success and experience.

Daniel said it is an important time for the club to build a winning culture, for the development of all the players involved, to set the club up for the future.

“Our No.1 goal is to have a successful senior team, and the role of us coaches is getting your players to develop, and part of that is winning and playing finals football,” he said.

“(Former development coach) Max Rooke, when he was here, spoke about it very heavily. He said when he was at Geelong their VFL team won the premiership and that helped them a lot to have success in their senior team, which is a model we try to follow.”

Daniel’s attention quickly moves to the Preliminary Final as the club prepares to combat a very strong Swan’s outfit.

The SUNS will be bolstered by the return of multiple AFL-listed players after the conclusion of the AFL season last week, which includes the likes of Mitch Hallahan, Max Spencer, Darcy Macpherson, Trent McKenzie, Michael Rischitelli and Brad Scheer.

“This week’s match will have a lot to do with what we get back from our AFL side. I think we had eight AFL players (against NT) and we are eligible to get back six, which we will certainly take,” Daniel said.

The SUNS take on Sydney from 11am at Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday.