Gold Coast should wipe the Manuka Oval deck with Greater Western Sydney when the two expansion sides do battle this weekend.

I would have nodded in agreement a few weeks ago with my Roar colleague Cameron Rose, who yesterday put his neck out and predicted a Giants win on Saturday. But that was a few weeks ago. Now, I’m a believer.

Back then, the Suns were clearly a rabble. And there were problems all over the park.

In the middle they were overwhelmed, and unable to win the contested ball. That was a startling change given last year, they were clearance kings.

Up forward there was nothing. The tall targets were Tom Lynch and a resting ruckman, quite often Tom Hickey. It’s telling that Lynch is now playing at the other end of the field, and Hickey is in the seconds.

At the back, there was a gaping, Nathan Bock-shaped hole that was exploited with ease by Taylor Walker, Kurt Tippett and Nick Riewoldt.

What capped it all off was the complete absence of one key ingredient – effort. The way the Suns were pushed aside by the Crows in round one and St Kilda in Round two was more than just a little Port Adelaide. Guy McKenna was even feeling the heat.

But things have changed.

That Bock-shaped hole will return this weekend, after he broke his leg in a collision with Fremantle’s Matt De Boer (how did De Boer not come off second best there?). But fortunately for Gold Coast, the only tall target that could have truly out-muscled their defences, Setanta O’hAilpin, is out for the season.

The Suns have massive injury concerns of their own. Gary Ablett, Michael Rischitelli, David Swallow and Jared Brennan will all face fitness tests. Even if all four don’t play, my theory might still hold true.

Losing Gary Ablett for a few weeks was the best thing that could have happened to Gold Coast. Like McKenna predicted, it forced the club’s young midfielders to grow up quickly.

When I first heard Bluey say that a couple weeks back at a press conference, I thought he was nuts. A Gaz-less Suns against North Melbourne at the Etihad slaughterhouse? Three-digit defeat, at minimum. No growing up there. But McKenna’s words came true.

Anyone who has moved away from home at a young age can attest. Without your parents, you have to fend for yourself. Cook, clean, et cetera. You literally have no choice, it’s adapt or perish.

The dreadful thought of becoming a ‘coodabeen’ would surely have crossed the minds of Swallow, Harley Bennell, Sam Day, Josh Caddy, Seb Tape and many others over the course of the past six months.

They’re far from fully developed, but – save for the blip on the radar that was the Queensland derby – they’ve finally pulled their finger out and shown some ticker. They had to.

Bennell ran the show against the Dockers. Swallow, even on one leg, kicked three goals and lent some class to the forward line.

Karmichael Hunt, clearly unsatisfied with being a mere bonafide AFL midfielder, was again brilliant. Six clearances, 10 hard ball gets – these are stats any footballer would gladly accept.

Before this recent turnaround from the Suns, I would have put my house on the Giants, a team for whom I have been open in my admiration for. They already have heart – they’re just less polished than Gold Coast.

So if Ablett plays, and his young charges don’t go back to old habits as soon as they see his shiny head darting in and around the packs, they should be way too much for GWS.

Even if he doesn’t come up, that should be the case. They’ve learned a lesson that the Giants are still 12 months from discovering.

Ablett, Swallow, Bennell, Hunt, Caddy, Prestia. This is a midfield that will win a premiership in a few years time.

Kevin Sheedy can try and shut one or all of them down, but even the might of ‘joke’ tagger Ryan Crowley and Ross Lyon’s sourpuss football couldn’t quite do that – even with the first two injured.

Sheeds can try and strangle Sam Day and overwhelm Matthew Warnock, but the Suns have now rediscovered the one thing that the Giants had going for them – effort.

The simple fact is that GWS can’t beat Gold Coast this weekend without a Gold Coast mental collapse. I’m not sure they’re capable of bringing one on.

Of course, I’m not as brave as Mr Rose – I say the Suns should win, not that they will. These are young players we’re talking about, and inconsistency is part and parcel of development. So we’re told.

But a lack of effort should never be.

And now that this glaring deficiency has been corrected – thanks largely to Gary Ablett’s knee – these four points belong to the Gold Coast.

Vince Rugari
Vince Rugari

Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for Australian Associate Press

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The Crowd Says (32)

  • May 8th 2012 @ 9:01am
    brendan said | May 8th 2012 @ 9:01am | ! Report

    ”Losing Gary Ablett was the best thing that could have happened .Like McKenna predicted it forced the young midfielders to grow up quickly” .When i stated three weeks ago moving Ablett to the forward line would force improvement in the young midfielders you told me it would be suicidal for the team.How quickly we change our tune Vince.

    • Columnist

      May 8th 2012 @ 10:45am
      Vince Rugari said | May 8th 2012 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      McKenna has discussed this in press conferences before this season – he wants to play Gaz up forward in patches , but Gaz doesn’t want to yet – he’s not completely confident in the young midfielders just yet. And neither am I. But by the end of the season I reckon it’ll be safe to do so. I was wrong, brendan, and I’m glad.

  • May 8th 2012 @ 10:22am
    Football fan said | May 8th 2012 @ 10:22am | ! Report

    GC will smash the little giants this week if they are serious. If they’re not serious, they’ll only win by 10 goals.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 10:40am
      Ian Whitchurch said | May 8th 2012 @ 10:40am | ! Report

      The Suns wont “smash” the Giants. They might be able to run around them using slick, high-tempo play and precise passing … but they wont physically smash them, because Mohr, Cornes, Davis, Folau, Giles and Cameron is more key-position beef than the Suns have.

      While it is possible that Karmichael Hunt can physically dominate the midfield, the Giants gang-tackling, especially at stoppages, has been pretty good, so I dont see physical dominance there either.

      Lots of people have said the Giants will lose games by many, many goals, but so far taking the Giants with the point spread has been pretty darn profitable.

      • May 8th 2012 @ 11:12am
        Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        I think you are being a bit to literal there Ian. And when the spread is as high as it has been it’s a fairly easy bet.

        • May 8th 2012 @ 11:41am
          Ian Whitchurch said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          Macca,

          As someone who has kept the occasional book, you dont do it as a charity. If the point spread is 87, thats because you think the same number of people will bet on the overs as the unders at that price.

          Like you, a lot of punters thought the Giants would be appalling this year. They arent.

          • May 8th 2012 @ 11:50am
            Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:50am | ! Report

            Ian in the first game against Sydney the spread was 100 points, that was never going to happen. I haven’t tracked it for every game but it it’s regularly around the 15 goals GWS become pretty attractive.

            And there is a big difference between beating the spread and being a good side. After all if they lose this week the chances of them avoiding the spoon and even winning a game decrease dramatically.

            • May 8th 2012 @ 12:35pm
              Ian Whitchurch said | May 8th 2012 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

              Macca,

              Of *course* you cant be bothered to find it out. Why break your usual habit with anything to do with the Sun or GWS ?

            • May 8th 2012 @ 1:08pm
              Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

              Ian – I don’t bet so why would I bother following the spread? And just because I don’t agree with you Ian doesn’t make my opinion wrong or invalid so there is no need to get snooty.

            • May 10th 2012 @ 3:17pm
              GrantS said | May 10th 2012 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

              The problem is Macca that you make a statement then when proved wrong, as happens nearly every time you open your mouth, you are not man enough to admit it.

              You were the one who disputed the comment about the points spread then you turn around and say it doesn’t matter.
              Bookies are not in the business of giving away money but if you are so good and working out what the true spread is then you should start making a living of your expertise.

              Some of us do bet, and bet for a living, so maybe you could put your points spread down in black and white each week so we(and everyone else) can see if you really know what you are talking about.

              There’s about as much chance of this as you ever being right!

            • May 10th 2012 @ 5:17pm
              Macca said | May 10th 2012 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

              Now Grant, I have quite often admitted I was wrong, I did it just the other day regarding Hunt signing a second contract so look like you were wrong about that.

              Also I didn’t say the points spread didn’t matter, I said I didn’t know exactly what they were as I don’t bet and don’t follow them religiously but when they are routinely 10 plus goals it make GWS plus the spread attractive. The inital game against the swans where the spread was 100 points you would of been mad to take the swans plus 100. For the record there I had the swans by around 80 so I was wrong by by 2 goals. But again your statement is wrong.

              As for ever being right, well I think my statement that Hunt wouldn’t get a game in carltons side still holds (despite Ians claim he would drop Carrazzo for him) so at the very least I have been right once so your statement is wrong again.

              Seeing as you were demonstrably wrong 3 times in the one post I hope you are man enough to admit it.

  • Roar Guru

    May 8th 2012 @ 11:23am
    The Cattery said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:23am | ! Report

    The Suns are missing pretty much the top tier of their players, so there is no question in my mind that this game will go right down to the wire.

    I agree with Ian that the Giants come into the game with some big, strong bodies, even if the majority of the team is a full year behind most of the Suns players.

    Both teams will be up for this one. If the coaching staff can’t get their charges pumped for this game, then they ought to give it up.

    This will be the match of the round.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 11:32am
      Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:32am | ! Report

      Some of those players are slated to come back in so predicting who will win is almost impossible until we know exactly who is playing.

      Match of the round? I think the closeness of the scores isn’t really they sole criteria for match of the round, quality of football played/expected and impact on finals should also play a part and this game fails both. Geelong V Adelaide, Essendon West Coast, St Kilda Carlton and even Sydney Richmond would beat this one for “Match of the Round” status.

  • Columnist

    May 8th 2012 @ 11:38am
    Cameron Rose said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:38am | ! Report

    I must admit to concern when Setanta went down, and even though it was only his first game, I felt that with Bock out he was going to be an important player.

    Either way Vince, one of us is going to look silly after the match, and the odds suggest it will probably be me!

  • May 8th 2012 @ 11:54am
    Me too said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:54am | ! Report

    Both teams are the worst of the new age AFL debutants by some way. But the positive in having them debut within a year of each other is that at least we can hope for some close games between them. But you would have to expect the spoils in this first season of the new rivalry to go to the suns. The damage to the psyche of the club if they were to lose this game would certainly outweigh the positives seen since gaz’s exclusion. I think the giants staff has gone about it smarter in a competitive sense – I.e. a very defensive game to minimize the thrashings that were too regular a feature in the suns’s debut year. However, the downside is that a win appears far less likely as the emphasis is on limiting scoring opportunities.
    I actually hope the Giants can cause an upset, as like many Australians, I cheer on the underdog – and the repercussions would be rather interesting. Also be good to hear them sing their song – not good for a footy team to go a year without having a singalong.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 1:11pm
      Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

      Me too – Completely agree with game plans. The fact that GWS were able to clearly beat the blues in clearances and contested ball on the weekend but still only manage 13 scoring shots and 33 inside 50’s on a ground like etihad shows they lack polish and aren’t an offensive threat.

      • May 8th 2012 @ 1:29pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | May 8th 2012 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

        Young side lacks offensive polish and commits turnovers ! Hold the presses !

        • May 8th 2012 @ 1:37pm
          Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

          So you agree with me Ian, it’s one of the reasons I thought they would struggle this year but you have been telling everyone how great they will be.

          It also doesn’t help that their game style is defensive giving them no one to kick to going forward. The Suns on the other hand play a much more attacking style, much more attractive to watch and in my opinion will pay greater dividends in the future.

          I would of thought someone with as much knowledge of GWS and the Suns woudln’t need someone who apparently doesn’t know anything about them telling you this but here we are.

          • Roar Guru

            May 8th 2012 @ 2:07pm
            Redb said | May 8th 2012 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

            Macca, poor Carlton really struggling with that flag contender tag.

            Loved the way the Bombers smashed the Blues.

            • May 8th 2012 @ 2:17pm
              Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

              I did say before that match Redb that given that the blues were going well and the bombers struggled against the Suns the history of the two teams would suggest an Essendon victory.

              I would harldy call 5-1 struggling and with St kilda, Adelaide in Melb, Melbourne and Port over the next 4 9-1 or 8-2 isn’t looking to bad. It will be the 4 games after that will shape their top 4 chances but hopefulyy Carrazzo and Laidler won’t be too far away by that stage.

              The flag contender title is something that could be given to about 7 teams this year, it will all come down to a bit of luck and being able to get momentum at the right time of year.

              The way you blokes are going down you might be fielding a little league side come finals time.

            • May 10th 2012 @ 3:22pm
              GrantS said | May 10th 2012 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

              Macca suffers from “foot in mouth disease”.

            • May 10th 2012 @ 5:19pm
              Macca said | May 10th 2012 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

              And what exactly have I said here that offeds thee Grant?

          • May 8th 2012 @ 2:58pm
            Ian Whitchurch said | May 8th 2012 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

            Macca,

            *If* you wanted to build a side which, like Fremantle and Brisbane Bears, would utterly fail to make any progress at all in the AFL, then you load the side full of experienced talent, and sacrifice your future in doing so.

            We havent done that, and I know if you get the intent right, and the game plan right, then the skills will come, and the endurance will come, and the wins will come.

            • May 8th 2012 @ 3:13pm
              Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

              James McDonald, Luke Power, Setanta O’hailpin, Dean Brogan, Chad Cornes don’t ring a bell?

              But seriously Ian I have never advocated loading the team with experienced players, I have questioned the talent of the experienced players you have got when compared with the Suns and whether the likes of Scully & Palmer are worth the money offered, but in genreal i have stated that GWS has sacrificed a few more years of inital success than the Suns to get a better result in the medium term as far as list management goes.

              I also have questioned the selectio of Sheedy as coach and believe the Suns made the better call going for a young coach in McKenna. I also think that McKenna allowing the kids to exploit their natural talent and flair in the early years and play attacking football and risk getting absolutely belted makes more sense than the Giants defensive style as it is easier to teach defence to an attacking side and top up defenders where required than vice versa.

              Carlton are a perfect example of this.

              It is good to see though that you finally acknowledge that the Giants will struggle in these early years.

            • May 8th 2012 @ 3:47pm
              Ian Whitchurch said | May 8th 2012 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

              Macca,

              Check what GWS paid for all of those players.

              I’ll give you a clue – no first round picks, no second round picks, no third round picks, no compo picks, and no three hundred thousand dollar contracts.

              Oh, the expenditure on those four … be still my beating heart !

            • May 8th 2012 @ 4:05pm
              Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

              Did I say you over paid for them, I just pointed out that you wre against loading the side with older players but have a number of them on the list.

              Also given O’hailpin is unlikely to play again this year and must be doubtful to continue at all, luke Power indicated on ABC radio he might not play next year, Brogan has struggled with injury and Jmaes McDOnald is tunring 26 in October how many of them will be on the list next year and how would you see the loss of those 4 or 5 impacting the ability for GWS to win games next year?

        • May 8th 2012 @ 7:50pm
          Milz said | May 8th 2012 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

          Ian, do you live on this thing 24/7?

  • Roar Guru

    May 8th 2012 @ 8:41pm
    The Cattery said | May 8th 2012 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

    Swallow is out for this weekend.

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