It was déjà vu for SUNS fans in Round 6.
With the scores locked in the final quarter against Melbourne, parallels could be drawn to the corresponding match in 2019 where the Demons snatched the win with seconds left on the clock.
But after battling hard for three and a half quarters, the SUNS couldn’t contain Melbourne any longer on the weekend and the Dees kicked away in the final minutes to win by 17 points.
Regardless of the result, there were plenty of interesting talking points from the match which SUNS Media have analysed below.
Defensive pillars stand tall:
It was the Charlie Ballard and Sam Collins show on Saturday night. So often the pair would be the saving grace for the SUNS when Melbourne looked dangerous on offense. The key defensive duo were a huge reason why Gold Coast were able to stay in the match, despite Melbourne’s inside 50 dominance (48-35).
Together, Ballard and Collins combined for nine intercept marks and 21 intercept possessions. They weren’t alone either. All up, the seven defenders had 17 intercept marks and 42 intercept possessions. Gold Coast’s defensive setup under assistant coach Josh Drummond has been a big improver in 2020 from Stuart Dew’s revamped game-plan and Ballard and Collins in particular are reaping the benefits.
Rankine the spark the SUNS needed:
If there was a sense of deflation when the footballing world learnt about the severity of Matt Rowell’s shoulder injury, that quickly evaporated after Izak Rankine took to the stage on Saturday night. The 20-year-old had tongues wagging after his three-goal performance which saw him earn the Round 6 NAB AFL Rising Star nomination.
Rankine was a walking highlights package on Saturday night and showed why he was so highly-rated as a junior. While his three goals rightfully earnt all the plaudits, what doesn’t get the same amount of attention is his work on the other side of the ball. The debutant had three tackles against Melbourne and 14 pressure acts which is another side to his game that the coaches love. While he did get caught holding the ball on two occasions, Dew said post-game it was important not to strip him of his flair and to encourage him to take the game on whenever possible. Sometimes Rankine will get pinged, but it’s a risk worth taking knowing what he can produce when he gets it right.
Turnovers costly, but reparable:
Stuart Dew said it best post-match: “In the end this was a winnable game and we’ll walk away really frustrated that in parts we handed it to them far too easily.” The vast majority of Melbourne’s goals on the weekend were self-inflicted by the SUNS. It might have been a sloppy kick, or perhaps a wrong decision, but Melbourne pounced when they sniffed an opportunity and made the SUNS pay by scoring goals off turnovers.
The good news is it’s something that can be fixed. The SUNS have been training the fast ball movement we’ve seen this year extensively, but it does come with risks. One of those is the potential for turnovers, but that is remedied by better decision making under pressure. It’s sure to be another big focus this week as the SUNS look to bounce back against Sydney.