It was a victory nine years in the making as Gold Coast SUNS finally sung the team song in Darwin with a 70-point win over NT Thunder at TIO Stadium on Saturday night.
The SUNS set the tone early, shooting out of the blocks with stunning nine goal to one opening term, proving a gap too big for NT Thunder to come back from as they ran out 18.13 (121) to 7.9 (51) winners.
Sean Lemmens, in his return from an ankle injury, was a star with four majors in a best-on-ground display, but the SUNS had many contributors all over the field in what was their best team performance for the season.
NEAFL Coach Nick Malceski said the No.1 focus for the group heading in to the clash was winning the contested football.
“I am really pleased with the group. We made a simple focus about the contest, which we pride ourselves on and we haven’t been able to deliver that consistently throughout the games in the previous four weeks,” he told neafl.com.au.
“I thought we were definitely on top in that area in the first half, which showed on the scoreboard.
“I thought our mids really led the way in that and our forwards kept it in there (forward 50). It was pleasing the boys got some ground ball goals and the big boys contested pretty well in the air.”
Tom Nicholls as a standout in the ruck, giving the SUNS midfielders first use on multiple occasions which delivered into a dynamic forward line.
Lemmens, Ben King and electric academy member Fitzroy Greenwool all booted four goals each.
After the dominant opening term, NT Thunder did well in stemming the flow and winning the last quarter, but the damage was already done.
Braedon McLean (concussion) and Josiah Farrer (hamstring) were done by half-time, but the side fought on admirably.
Gold Coast had previously never won at TIO Stadium, having lost eight games over the past eight years by an average of 41 points.
Malceski admits he withheld the record from the group pre-game, but it was celebrated in the rooms after the final siren.
“I didn’t bring it up with the group… I kept it to myself,” he said.
“But I let them know after the game. It was pleasing. It’s always a tough trip to come up here and face NT Thunder, because they play the conditions really well no matter who they are playing.”
The SUNS will next face Aspley at Voxson Oval next week.
NEAFL ROUND 5
NT Thunder v Gold Coast SUNS at TIO Stadium
GOLD COAST 9.4 11.10 17.11 18.13 (121)
NT THUNDER 1.0 2.2 5.6 7.9 (51)
Gold Coast: S Lemmens 4 F Greenwool 4 B King 4 J Mohr 2 M Rischitelli W Brodie R Gilmore J Schoenfeld.
NT Thunder: A Tipungwuti 3 D Staunton N Yarran A Ankers T Melville.
Gold Coast: S Lemmens T Nicholls M Rischitelli D Koenen C Nutting F Greenwool.
NT Thunder: B Rioli J Anderson A Tipungwuti J Budarick D McLachlan D Johnston.