North Melbourne coach Brad Scott heaped praise on Gold Coast’s rugby league recruit Karmichael Hunt after North claimed a 34-point win in their AFL clash at Etihad Stadium.
Hunt threw his muscular frame into packs all day long on Saturday, gathering 16 possessions as the injury-depleted Gold Coast led by a point at halftime, but faded in the closing stages.
North powered home with nine goals to Gold Coast’s four in the second half in front of less than 18,000 fans to win 17.25 (127) to 13.15 (93) and improve their record to 3-2 this season.
“They were challenged by their coach with a couple of senior players out and the young players for the Gold Coast really stood up and took their opportunities,” Scott said.
“I thought they were fantastic and gave everyone a glimpse as to what a good side they can be.
“Anyone who has criticised Karmichael Hunt over the journey should be eating their words and should be apologising to him, because on that performance he’s a bona fide AFL midfielder.”
The Kangaroos’ strong emphasis on handball brought them unstuck in the first half, with skipper Andrew Swallow admitting they were playing “kamikaze” football.
But an old-fashioned spray from Scott led to more composure in the second half, as Drew Petrie, Aaron Edwards and Lindsay Thomas finished with three goals each.
Swallow was best-afield with 31 possessions while younger brother David battled a hip injury to be among Gold Coast’s best with 23 disposals. Debutant Kyal Horsley was also prominent along with small forward Harley Bennell (21 possessions and three goals).
Andrew Swallow left the field dazed after receiving a high bump from Hunt in the third quarter but soon returned.
“He’s a 10-times better player than what he was,” Andrew Swallow said.
“The way he’s attacking the footy now and the way he’s reading it, it’s a credit to him.
“He goes hard at the footy and he’s got a big body and he throws it around.
“He’s a really fair player. I have no issues with him.”
North’s 2011 joint club champion Daniel Wells was subbed off at three-quarter time with only 13 possessions after being well-held by Dion Prestia.
Scott said Wells’ game time was being managed because he didn’t have a full pre-season.
The Suns were without Michael Rischitelli, Jarrod Harbrow and skipper Gary Ablett because of injuries.
“It’s a 34-point loss. Maybe in the scheme of the outside world, no respect,” Suns coach Guy McKenna said.
“But internally the boys are growing individually and they’re learning a lot about each other.”
Win-less Gold Coast’s next assignment is at home against Fremantle on May 5, while North Melbourne play West Coast in Perth the following day.