The Gold Coast SUNS have fallen just short of a victory over Melbourne in Round 6, with the final margin settling at 17 points.
The SUNS were right in the game with scores level midway through the final quarter before the Demons were able to squeeze ahead with three goals in the final 10 minutes, including one after the siren to win 12.8 (80) to 9.9 (63).
But it was SUNS debutant Izak Rankine who stole the show, dazzling in his first game of AFL football.
The loss was about the only spoiler to Rankine's scintillating three-goal debut, each of his finishes coming from the top shelf.
Hugh Greenwood and Touk Miller were among Gold Coast’s best in the midfield, with Greenwood leading all players with 12 tackles and Miller contributing with 23 disposals.
A disciplined Gold Coast defence, led by Sam Collins (10 intercept possessions) and Charlie Ballard (12), limited the damage, while the Suns were spectacular at the other end with fewer chances.
Rankine and recruit Brandon Ellis kicked five brilliant goals between them, while Lachie Weller's fancy footwork left Jake Lever looking silly after he banged one through from 50m in the first term.
The SUNS have a week to regroup before taking on Sydney at the SCG in Round 7.
Rankine's remarkable welcome
We have another member in the not-so-exclusive first kick, first goal club – but few of the entries were as special as this. Izak Rankine missed all of his first season through injury but the wait was worth it. He pounced on the loose Sherrin, bounced it like a basketball and gathered in the same motion, sidestepped James Harmes, then slotted a blind snap over his head from 40m. The Suns deservedly swamped the No.3 draft pick from 2018, and Ben King let Harmes know all about it. Rankine's second kick shortly after wasn't so memorable – his defensive kick went straight to Demon Bayley Fritsch, who nailed a long goal. His fifth was pretty good, too, a soccer-like finish for his second goal, after firstly kicking the ball into his path. Rankine had three majors by night's end after sharking a Max Gawn hitout near goal.
Viney finds his missing composure
Clayton Oliver's late turnover last week in the middle of the ground grabbed the headlines but vice-captain Jack Viney was arguably the poster boy for Melbourne's woeful kicking inside 50. Twice Viney burnt open teammates against the Tigers with poor kicks into attack and finished with a whopping eight turnovers. He had an early opportunity to redeem himself on Saturday night, and capitalised on it. A deliberate Christian Salem dribble pass found Viney, who evaded multiple opponents, steadied and instead of blazing away he hit up Christian Petracca with his non-preferred right boot. Petracca went on to kick the Demons' first goal of the night.
Ex-Sun's wait ends for his next goal
Harley Bennell's rollercoaster AFL journey started nine years ago as one of Gold Coast's foundation players. He played for Fremantle before joining Melbourne this past off-season but this was the first time he'd faced the Suns, after earning a senior recall. Bennell was a solid performer on the night but his post-siren goal to cap the Dees' victory was cause for his biggest celebration. It was his 96th career major but first since 2017. Earlier, Bennell watched his close-range snap pierce the uprights, only for a score review to confirm Charlie Ballard touched the Sherrin on the way through.
MELBOURNE 2.1 6.5 8.8 12.8 (80)
GOLD COAST 3.2 5.4 8.5 9.9 (63)
Melbourne: Fritsch 2, Weideman 2, Petracca 2, Harmes, Salem, Hibberd, Melksham, Hannan, Bennell
Gold Coast: Rankine 3, Ellis 2, Weller, King, Fiorini, Ainsworth
Melbourne: Gawn, Viney, Petracca, Oliver, May, Langdon
Gold Coast: Miller, Ballard, Rankine, Collins, Greenwood, Lukosius
Melbourne: McDonald (right eye)
Gold Coast: Holman (ribs)