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The most courageous win in Gold Coast’s AFL history was created but also overshadowed by a shoulder injury to captain Gary Ablett.
The Suns lost their inspirational skipper nine minutes into the third term of the thrilling 11.14 (80) to 10.15 (75) win over Collingwood at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
Ablett failed to return after dislocating his left shoulder following a tackle from Magpie Brent Macaffer, with Charlie Dixon (calf), Sean Lemmens (concussion) and Trent McKenzie (hamstring) soon joining him in the rooms.
It left the Suns with no fit players on the interchange bench for all but two minutes of the final term.
They should have wilted in the face of a fitter opponent, but in front of a record crowd of 24,032, the Suns stood firm and claimed a win which keeps them in eighth spot for at least another week.
Whether the Suns can keep themselves in the hunt for finals may have plenty to do with the results of scans on Ablett’s shoulder on Monday.
A serious injury could end the 30-year-old’s season as well as scuppering his hopes of a record-equalling third Brownlow Medal.
Suns’ coach Guy McKenna said it was just a matter of waiting for the medical report.
“I briefly saw him at three-quarter time and at that stage he wasn’t in a mood to be talking,” he said.
“He’ll go through what he has to go through and we’ll keep our fingers and arms crossed that he’ll be okay.”
The heroes were many for the Suns.
Out-of-form Sam Day belied his recent dry run up front with four goals while David Swallow (31 disposals) and Jaeger O’Meara (25 disposals, six tackles) were tireless in midfield.
McKenna admitted it wasn’t the team’s best performance, but it was their gutsiest.
“If you give good effort and your skill level’s off, your structure might be caught out, as long as you’re solid in a contest like we did for most of the night, you might be able to pinch a win,” he said.
“The courage to keep running until the final siren blew was certainly a sign of growing up tonight.”
Magpies coach Nathan Buckley was left to rue missed opportunities, especially an opening half where the visitors dominated but failed to put themselves out of reach.
Travis Cloke, Ben Kennedy and Clinton Young both managed two goals each but in the end Buckley admitted the Suns simply outfought his team.
“If you can’t execute or go the whole journey you get results like tonight where you give the opposition a chance and they’ll take it,” he said.
“We deserve to be where we are.
“We’ve deserved enough to win nine games of footy and we’ve deserved losing six.”