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Gold Coast upsets North Melbourne in AFL clash

Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett is tackled by Jack Ziebell of the Kangaroos during the round seven match on Sunday.

Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett is tackled by Jack Ziebell of the Kangaroos during the round seven match on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images

GOLD COAST 7.4 10.5 13.10 18.12 (120) NORTH MELBOURNE 1.4 7.6 10.10 11.11 (77)
Goals: Gold Coast: G Ablett 4 B Matera 3 C Dixon 3 H Bennell 2 T Lynch 2 A Hall D Prestia M Rischitelli S Day. North Melbourne: M Daw 2 A Black A Mullett B Harvey B McKenzie D Petrie L Greenwood L Thomas R Bastinac S Gibson.
BEST Gold Coast: Prestia, Lynch, Matera, Ablett, Bennell, Swallow, Kolodjashnij, Dixon, Harbrow, O’Meara. North Melbourne: Hansen, Cunnington, Ziebell, Gibson.
Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Robert Findlay, Tristan Burgess.
Official Crowd: 19,819 at Etihad Stadium.

North Melbourne was getting the ball, holding onto it, using it well and kicking some goals. In almost every imaginable way it was back in the game, but by the half-time siren it was still three goals down. For all its work, there was so much more to do.

That this was the case says plenty about just how devastating Gold Coast’s first quarter was. Quick, proactive, energetic. Six goals in a row, room to run, almost every opportunity taken and what seemed an absolute understanding of what they, and each other, were capable of doing.

Time
FT
Team
NMFC
Score
11.11.77
Team
GCFC
Score
18.12.120
North Melbourne versus Gold Coast
View Match Statistics
Players Daw (2.1), Greenwood (1.2), Bastinac (1.1), Black (1.1), Petrie (1.1), Gibson (1.0), Harvey (1.0), McKenzie (1.0), Mullett (1.0), Thomas (1.0) Scorers Ablett (4.1), Dixon (3.1), Matera (3.1), Bennell (2.2), Lynch (2.1), Rischitelli (1.1), Day (1.0), Hall (1.0), Prestia (1.0), O'Meara (0.1)

When Aaron Hall placed a long kick into the open forward line, it almost didn’t seem to matter who would be there to run onto it. He knew that whoever it was was more likely than not to win the race. As it happened, it was Harley Bennell, who reached the goal square long before anyone else.

In Bennell, Dion Prestia and David Swallow, the Suns simply kept getting the ball. They decided what was going to happen in this game.

If they didn’t have room to run with it, the player beside them did. They had support, wherever they were, no matter what circumstances they were in.

In Hall and Brandon Matera, they had a couple of small forwards who kept finding space that should not have been available. In Tom Lynch and Charlie Dixon, they had men able to take strong marks, to out-position and confuse players of much more experience.

That so much damage was done so early was in one way good for North Melbourne. It might have been reactive and it may have been slow but it was hard to tell because it was never really given a chance to be or do anything. What it had was time to fix things.

Drew Petrie’s mark in the the last minute meant it had at least one goal up by quarter-time, and it got going from there. Ben Cunnington, held to three first-quarter possessions, had 14 in the second, most of them of them contested. He managed four clearances to go with them.

As he got more involved so did Sam Gibson, Jack Ziebell and others.

Todd Goldstein made life harder for Tom Nicholls, another Sun to have started extremely well. Brent Harvey began to find the sort of room Hall had snuck into.

Throughout, the Roos had Lachie Hansen, who started taking his 12 first-half marks when the Suns were in absolute control, and whose resistance was important given how quickly Gold Coast moved the ball.

But suddenly, the Suns had things to think about.

They were happy to readjust, they weren’t bothered by the challenge and they trusted themselves and their plan. The Suns don’t go into their shells any more, which is another reason North’s five second-quarter goals did not ensure anything but a more entertaining contest.

The influence of Bennell and Swallow decreased a little as the North Melbourne midfield got moving, but they recovered and by then others had became influential: Jarrod Harbrow, Kade Kolodjashnij and even Gary Ablett, who was reasonably well held by Levi Greenwood early until he went nuts in the last quarter.

In Lynch and Dixon, the Suns had more reliable targets than North, which almost got the ball into Majak Daw’s arms four or five times before he held onto his first mark late in the first half.

They always had enough run. But it was their willingness to use it, and attack, that kept them in front.

The Suns defended well, picking off North's long, hopeful kicks in.

They kept trying to score, and to keep keep North Melbourne’s mind on the chase. They did it again late in the third quarter, when North pushed again, kicking three goals in three minutes. The three-quarter-time margin? Three goals, again.

Ablett’s second goal, early in the last quarter, made North’s job difficult. His third, less than a minute later, made it harder. Then came his fourth, from a fortunate free-kick by the boundary line.

Suddenly, this was what it was from the start: controlled, comprehensive and, quite simply, too good.

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