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Gold Coast cruises past sorry Lions

Date
In the ruck: Lion Trent West (front) and Tom Nicholls.

In the ruck: Lion Trent West (front) and Tom Nicholls. Photo: Getty Images

GOLD COAST 2.2 5.6 12.10 17.12 (114) BRISBANE LIONS 1.2 3.4 6.4 9.7 (61)
Goals: Gold Coast: S Day 4 G Ablett 3 B Matera 2 D Swallow 2 J Harbrow J O'Meara K Kolodjashnij M Shaw S Lemmens T Lynch. Brisbane Lions: T Rockliff 3 M Paparone 2 J Aish L Taylor P Hanley S Mayes.
BEST Gold Coast: Ablett, Prestia, Swallow, May, O'Meara, Day. Brisbane Lions: Rockliff, Redden, Moloney, Golby.
Umpires: Scott Jeffery, Chris Kamolins, Heath Ryan.
INJURIES Brisbane Lions: Rich (knee).
CROWD 16,593 at Metricon Stadium.

The first thing to say about Gold Coast's’ shellacking of their sort-of local rivals the Brisbane Lions is that it should not have been in any way unexpected. There is a massive talent gulf between these teams, the Suns were on their home patch, and the Lions are already enduring an awful start to 2014.

Of course, the Lions have not been the beneficiaries of anything like the kind of largesse that the Suns have received from the AFL. Their frustration was revealed by Daniel Merrett, who’ll probably have a spell next week after collecting David Swallow high with a raised elbow in the last quarter.

Time
FT
Team
GCFC
Score
17.12.114
Team
BFC
Score
9.7.61
Gold Coast versus Brisbane
View Match Statistics
Players Day (4.0), Ablett (3.0), Swallow (2.2), Matera (2.1), O'Meara (1.1), Harbrow (1.0), Kolodjashnij (1.0), Lemmens (1.0), Lynch (1.0), Shaw (1.0), Prestia (0.1), Rischitelli (0.1), Russell (0.1) Scorers Rockliff (3.0), Paparone (2.1), Hanley (1.1), Taylor (1.1), Aish (1.0), Mayes (1.0), Zorko (0.2), Green (0.1), Moloney (0.1)

What prompted the usually mild Merrett to perform such a rash deed? Swallow had just booted the ball into an open forward line, run 50 metres to collect his own ball (scooped off the turf with one hand), then dished off by hand to Matt Shaw for a goal. The Suns had been performing party tricks like that for most of the second half.

Gary Ablett, of course, was outstanding. He finished with 38 possessions, kicked three goals, laid 11 tackles and cleared the ball from the packs on six occasions to win the Marcus Ashcroft medal. Ablett has made such performances so routine we take them for granted, which is rather sad.

Again, though, the story was the upwelling, and the gelling, of the talent below him. Swallow, Dion Prestia and Jaeger O’Meara were all prominent contributors again. Kade Kolodjashnij, with his beautiful kicking and cat-like movements, is a name we’re all going to have to learn to spell.

For the Lions, bad signs abounded from the beginning. They were fumbling and uncertain, particularly in defence, where they chipped the ball around aimlessly until, inevitably, they coughed it up. In the seventh minute, Gary Ablett chased down Pearce Hanley, collected the spoils and strolled in for the easiest of goals.

A few minutes later, Jarrod Harbrow bombed another from outside 50, again against the run of general play, and although the Suns wouldn’t score another for the quarter, from there the ascendancy was theirs. It was crystallised when Steven May lifted Dayne Zorko off his feet with a shirtfront that sent a bloodied Zorko from the field.

It was telling that no one from the Lions challenged May, or went to their teammate’s aid. Perhaps May’s opponent, Jonathan Brown, should have. May went on to give the Lion King a royal bath, out-competing Brown in the air and running off him at every opportunity. Right now, Brown is playing because the Lions have no one else.

In the second quarter, things went from bad to disastrous for the Lions when Daniel Rich’s knee buckled across the body of Sean Lemmens. Scans will probably show Rich has a ruptured ACL. It’s a cruel blow both to a good player and a struggling team that can’t afford to lose players of his class.

Still, at half-time the Suns' lead was just 14 points, hardly a true reflection of the huge gulf in talent between the two teams, or the dominance of the home side. The difference, to that point, had been not Ablett, but Sam Day, whose sure hands and true kicking gave the Suns their three goals for the second quarter.

In the second half, Justin Leppitsch had thrown Tom Rockliff forward in a desperate search for another scoring option, and Rockliff responded with two goals to reduce the margin to eight points. But that was only the catalyst for the Suns, who still have players of the calibre of Harley Bennell in reserve, to finally click into gear.

The blitz that followed shut the gate on the game. The best goal among the flood of goals was a sublime effort by Lemmens, who accepted a pass from Ablett on the run, sold an entire sweet shop to Mayes, then drilled the shot.

Who do the Lions have right now? They’ve got James Aish, who’ll be an excellent player in time, and Sam Mayes, although he was quiet in this match. But there are huge gaps in this team that will continue to be exposed by the better teams. The Suns are a much better team.

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