The Gold Coast Suns’ emphatic 43-point win over North Melbourne on the weekend told quite the story about both clubs. For the Suns, it puts them one step closer to reaching their debut finals series. For North Melbourne, it was yet another dip aboard the Roo Rollercoaster. After displaying arguably their best form of the season in one of the league’s toughest assignments against Fremantle in Perth last week, the Roos were comprehensively outplayed for most of the game by the less-fancied Suns.
If the Kangaroos went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with them, he would do a few tests and then scratch his head, confused. In addition to the Dockers, their other significant conquests this season have been Sydney and Port Adelaide. On the face of it, a home game against the Suns should have been an opportunity to further push their top four credentials, and there’s no doubt this was a game they would have pencilled in as a win before the start of the season.
Instead, the Kangaroos now find themselves back in the pack fighting it out to stay in the eight. The only thing the doctor could do would be to refer them to a psychiatrist. Suspected diagnosis: bipolar disorder.
The Suns, on the other hand, are a picture of good health and now find themselves sitting 5-2 heading into their bye. With subsequent games against St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs they can cash in on their great start to the season. A 7-2 start will mean they’ll probably need to only win five more home and away games to make the eight. Eminently doable.
While the Suns’ start has exceeded most people’s expectations, the general consensus before a ball was bounced in 2014 was that the Suns had the talent to make it to the finals. What many pundits will be reconsidering now, though, is the notion that they’d just be making up the numbers in September. Facing the Suns in an elimination final in the first week of the finals would be a tricky assignment for virtually any club.
Supporting this are three important elements from the Suns’ victory on the weekend.
Firstly, they got themselves into a winning position without a major impact from captain Gary Ablett. It’s fair to say his three last quarter goals basically iced the game, but the spread of performances from their other midfielders – especially Dion Prestia (28 possessions and six clearances) and the returning Harley Bennell (23 possessions and two goals) – was telling, and further signals that the “stop Ablett, stop the Suns” days are well and truly over.
Secondly, it was their ability to win when threatened strongly by the Kangaroos, who cut a seven goals margin to just four points in the third quarter. The Suns of pre-2014 would have rolled over like a cute little puppy dog wanting its belly tickled. These Suns now have something more than just talent, and that’s mental toughness. They don’t want a belly tickling, they want a scrap.
Thirdly, it was the Suns’ ability to win away from home. Having only won two away games in the entire 2013 season, they’ve already equalled that record in 2014. Another sign of a club that’s maturing towards finals football.
If the Suns can in fact win their next two games to be 7-2, there’s every possibility they could be in the top four by the end of round 10. They won’t stay there for long, but it will mark an important psychological milestone in the club’s development.
The Kangaroos, on the other hand, will be 5-4 if results go according to expectations. The trouble is, expectations often don’t eventuate when it comes to North Melbourne. The Roos could equally be top or bottom six after 10 rounds, depending on the path the Rollercoaster takes.
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