In a round that could only be described as a tipster’s nightmare, only one other match had a closer score than that of Gold Coast’s 13 point win over St Kilda at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.
Without a host of big name players in the side, many earmarked this match as a danger game for the Saints against a Gold Coast side, not short on confidence when declaring they could win their maiden premiership in just three years.
With just six wins in their two formative years in the AFL, many south of the border have ridiculed the Suns as unrealistic incompetents, funded by the AFL at the expense of a solid competition.
Saturday night’s win will hush all of those in Victoria. The young locals who ventured to Ewingsdale two Fridays ago should also take a lot of credit for ‘tuning’ the Suns up for their performance.
Gold Coast started fast with early goals to Charlie Dixon, Luke Russell and Harley Bennell in a pulsating first quarter that saw youngster Aaron Hall finish with high quality disposals in the first quarter.
As had been the case in their previous years, the second quarter saw a notable drop off in the Suns’ intensity as the Saints slammed on five goals to nil.
Saints skipper and former Gold Coast local Nick Riewoldt – who was well held by young Suns defender Rory Thompson – kicked his only two goals for the game, while midfielders David Armitage and Jarryn Geary amassed a cool 35 possessions between them at the half.
From half time onwards, it was the Gary Ablett Junior show. The third quarter saw the bald maestro break through a tackle, burn his opponent off before slotting through a magnificent goal on the run to send the Metricon crowd into raptures.
There was further reason to be excited when young prodigy Jaeger O’Meara put through his first goal in league football out of a forward 50 stoppage.
Much as been made of O’Meara league wide, when he was drafted as a seventeen year old yet unable to play senior footy and had to instead ply his trade in the reserves competition, winning multiple best on grounds.
The Saints’ inaccuracy cost themselves a chance to extend the lead in the third quarter as they registered a woeful 1.7 in the first and then 1.5 in the third quarter, leading by just 9 points at the last break.
Ablett, as if he hadn’t done enough already, then took it upon himself to quickly eradicate the St Kilda lead through three brilliant individual goals.
The first saw him win a free kick deep in the Suns attack, yet it was the second and particularly the third that will be etched in the minds of the near 14,000 strong crowd.
Two goals on the run, one where he pushed off Saints defender Sam Gilbert before hooking the ball across his body from 40m out, complemented a best on ground performance as he also finished with 34 possessions, 19 of them won in contested situations.
The Saints came hard in the last few minutes of the last quarter led by three goals for the match from small forward Terry Milera.
However, he was alone in being able to find the middle of the big sticks, as inaccuracy continued to haunt St Kilda. A seven point margin with two minutes to go, with the game in the balance, was soon erased when Hall ran into an open goal to kill off any hopes of Saints fightback.
While the competition may sit up and take notice of Gold Coast’s performance, it was Ablett’s performance of four goals and 34 touches that copped the most attention, with many AFL players sending messages of support to champion via Twitter and other social media.
The Suns’ task gets a little harder next week when they travel to Sydney to take on last year’s premiers the Swans.
The final score was Gold Coast 13. 12. (90) defeating St Kilda 10. 17. (77).