GOLD COAST 3.2 5.6 10.12 17.16 (118) GEELONG 5.1 6.7 9.7 11.12 (78)
Goals: Gold Coast: H Bennell 6 C Dixon 3 J O’Meara 2 L Russell 2 G Ablett J Harbrow J Martin T Lynch. Geelong: S Kersten 3 S Motlop 3 T Hawkins 3 C Enright S Johnson.
Best: Gold Coast Suns: Bennell Ablett Prestia Swallow May Kolodjashnij. Geelong: Selwood Duncan Kelly Johnson Christensen Motlop.
Injuries: Gold Coast Suns: Matera (groin). Geelong: Stokes (ankle).
Umpires: Robert Findlay, Chris Kamolins, Leigh Fisher.
Crowd: 18,236 at Metricon Stadium.
The Gold Coast has had to wait for some time to assemble its full arsenal before the public. For much of the first half of this season, Harley Bennell has been absent with a calf injury. The Suns’ No. 2 draft pick ahead of their first season, he has long shaped as a player with limitless potential – if he could harness his immense talent.
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Gold Coast claims first Geelong victory
Gold Coast Suns have defeated the Cats for the first time in history with a 40-point upset on Saturday.
Bennell’s fuse has been burning slowly since his return in round seven against North Melbourne. On Saturday, against Geelong, he detonated. It wasn’t just the six goals he kicked – three in the last quarter, the last icing a 40-point win, the Suns’ first over the Cats – or the multitude of assists he provided to his teammates.
It was his an uncanny ability to keep finding space. Bennell never looks like he’s moving quickly; he’s like a cat, conserving his energy, pouncing at the whiff of a quick kill. It was a dominant performance, easily bettering his captain Gary Ablett, who still finished with 33 possessions, slowly working over Cameron Guthrie.
For two and a half quarters, Geelong – who slip out of the top four – had looked in relative control of the contest, twice breaking to a 17-point lead. But the longer the match wore on, the more they searched in vain for someone who could match up on Bennell, and contain the Suns’ array of young stars.
Jack Martin was one, returning for his first match (and only second overall) since wrecking his left shoulder in round one. The others are more familiar: Dion Prestia, prolific again, David Swallow, Charlie Dixon and Steven May, who must be close to the most improved player in the competition this year.
Martin was excellent, finishing with 15 possessions and six tackles, his speed and ability to run two ways and apply pressure obvious. For Geelong, Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan were solid contributors, but it all fell apart in the last quarter as the Suns piled on seven goals to maintain their place in the eight.
Earlier on, Geelong had been the more efficient and intelligent side, especially going forward. They were also aided by some terrible Suns turnovers: Michael Rischitelli set off for a run, only to lose possession on his second bounce, the ball quickly rebounding to a grateful Steve Johnson.
A minute later, the Suns were caught out in the slippery conditions, mucking about with a chain of handballs that went nowhere until, inevitably, one went to the opposition. The ball was whipped downfield in an instant to Shane Kersten, whose right boot is as deadly as an arrow.
A few minutes later, Kade Kolodjashnij handballed straight to a running Corey Enright to gift the evergreen defender a rare goal. Selwood won the next centre clearance outright and found Tom Hawkins on the lead. At that point, the Cats looked like they had the edge in both class and composure.
But Dixon kept the home side in touch with a goal second before the first break, and the Suns tightened up in a much more closely fought second quarter. Bennell’s influence continued to grow as he read a throw-in perfectly to snap his second goal, and later set up Dixon for his second.
In between, Steven Motlop kicked the goal of the day for Geelong, chasing down a ball on the boundary line – actually, it appeared to bounce on its end out of play – before taking a look up at the goal posts from 45 minutes and screwing the ball around on his right foot.
That made the margin seven points, but Motlop had another goal within a minute of the third quarter, and by the 11th minute the Cats were back out again to a 17-point break, Kersten driving through another from close to 60 metres that just floated over the hands of Hawkins, and the Tomahawk then kicking his second.
At that point, the result looked to be pointing firmly in Geelong’s direction. They had one serious problem: they couldn’t find an opponent to counter Bennell, who was tormenting the Cats: finding Luke Russell in deep space, then setting up Swallow (who missed), then kicking his third in very similar fashion to Motlop.
That gave the Suns the lead late in the third quarter, and when Danny Stanley set up Dixon’s third goal minutes later, all the scoreboard pressure was back on the visitors. The match was well poised, but the final quarter was a walkover, as Bennell raised his game again to shred the Cats.