The Gold Coast SUNS AFLW team have gotten some much-needed match practice in the legs after a competitive hit-out against St Kilda at Fankhauser Reserve on Saturday afternoon.
There was nothing splitting the two teams after the first half, but the Saints lifted in the third and fourth quarters to run out 3.6 (24) to 6.10 (46) winners.
After the match simulation planned for last weekend against Brisbane was rained out, it was Gold Coast’s first time playing against AFLW opposition.
Britt Perry (two goals) got the SUNS on the board early and showed great prowess in the forward line, forming a lethal combination with Leah Kaslar (one goal).
In the midfield it was Kate Surman who provided a spark around stoppages, supported by fellow solid performers Hannah Dunn and Jacqui Yorston.
SUNS Senior Coach David Lake said post-match there were plenty of positive signs to take out of the match.
“I was really happy with the first two quarters,” Lake said.
“In the second two we were challenged a little bit and I felt like we still had the effort but everyone wanted to see if they could fix it alone rather than the collective.
“But if I measure it from the first two (quarters) and say what are we capable of – that was good.”
Sam Virgo was stand-in skipper for the day and said it was great to finally get some match practice, but admitted there were lessons to learn from the second half.
“St Kilda went up a level definitely and we felt that,” Virgo said.
“We probably didn’t respond quite as we’d like to with that pressure.
“But we’ll learn from that and understand that we’ve got to really respond and rise to that and see if we can get the game back on our terms.”
Kalinda Howarth was a late out on the day and was replaced by Charlotte Hammans in the squad.
The first blow
It didn’t take long for SUNS fans at the ground to find their voice, with Britt Perry giving Gold Coast an early lead with a goal in the opening three minutes. Perry led hard at the ball and a push in the back free kick saw her line up from 30 metres almost directly in front, slotting through her first major as a SUN.
SUNS to watch
Every good team needs players who can run and carry out of the back half, and for the SUNS that was the combination of Paige Parker and Cheyenne Hammond. The pair were recruited for their line-breaking abilities and looked at home in space on the wing or at half-back.
Point of difference
She’s played predominately as a key defender for most of her AFLW career, but Leah Kaslar looked just as comfortable in a new role in the forward line against the Saints. The SUNS veteran was trialled in the new position with success, kicking a goal and bringing elite forward pressure to go with her relentless attack on the ball.
At the end of the day
It was only Gold Coast’s first hit-out of 2020, but there was plenty to like about the performance. There was intensity at ground level and purpose in the tackles laid, giving SUNS fans an early glimpse of what to expect this season.
“All day we saw glimpses from different players. I thought effort and intent was outstanding, there’s lots of positives we can take from the first two quarters. If we can grow two quarters into three quarters then we can keep continuing to progress that to be as ready for Round 1 as we can. – SUNS coach David Lake
The SUNS have a week’s break before Round 1 where they will fly south to take on GWS at Blacktown. The match is on February 8 at 1:10pm and will be broadcast on 7mate and Fox Footy.
GOLD COAST SUNS 2.1 3.4 3.5 3.6 (24)
ST KILDA 2.2 3.3 5.9 6.10 (46)
SUNS Goals: Perry 2, Kaslar
SUNS Best: Surman, Perry, Kaslar, Ritson, Dunn