Listen up: Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna makes a point to star Gary Ablett at three-quarter-time yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
PORT ADELAIDE 4.4 7.7 14.14 17.16 (118) GOLD COAST 2.5 7.6 7.8 10.10 (70)
GOALS Port Adelaide: Boak 3, Brad Ebert 2, Brett Ebert 2, Cornes 2, Broadbent 2, Pearce, D Stewart, McCarthy, Schulz, Trengove, Westhoff. Gold Coast: Day 3, McQualter 2, Sexton, Brown, Ablett, Horsley, Rischitelli.
BEST Port Adelaide: Pearce, Boak, Cornes, Brad Ebert, Broadbent, Trengove. Gold Coast: Day, McQualter, Iles, Stanley Ablett, Rischitelli.
UMPIRES S Jeffery, J Mollison,N Foot.
CROWD 12,416 at Metricon Stadium.
IF EVER Gold Coast was to finally break its duck at its home ground - and this season - this surely would be the game. Yes, Port Adelaide has shown signs of improvement this year, and the Suns are winless. But for talent, you'd think the Suns have the Power covered. And that elusive first victory hasn't looked too far away.
Well, elusive it remains. If the Suns haven't learnt the lesson by now, after today it should be manifestly obvious: it's not just a matter of playing four quarters, especially for the Suns. It only takes the briefest of collective brain-fades for a promising game to turn to dust, regardless of the opposition.
''That's just our journey at the moment, just [being] harder and smarter for longer,'' coach Guy McKenna said after the 48-point loss. ''It's another three-quarter effort, but that's probably where we're at, at the moment … We've just got to drive these boys to stay focused for longer.''
Of course, you could have written the same thing about the Power plenty of times in the past few years. Indeed, the Power wasn't even switched on for the first 10 minutes of the first and final quarters. But the Suns couldn't make them pay in that first quarter, and a brief flurry of three goals early in the last was just too little, too late.
By contrast, in six minutes early in the third quarter, the Power kicked five goals. That was the game, right there. In that third quarter, Port entered the Suns' forward 50 arc on 22 occasions for seven majors. It probably didn't even need to go inside that often, since it kicked many of its goals from well outside that distance, but it gives you a fair idea of the Power's total dominance of the home side during that period
It didn't look a fair reflection of the contest, for at half-time, the Suns were within a point after a stirring five-goal second quarter. Their prospective key forwards Sam Day and Tom Lynch had dominated both in the air and around the ground, with Day in particular playing a formidable game, dragging in five marks and booting three goals for the half.
But since when was football fair? As everyone knows, it's not just about physical maturity; the game's played between the ears. On both counts, the Suns still have plenty of growing up to do. They looked much the better side early on, booting the first two goals. But they also squandered a number of gilt-edged opportunities, and then came another of those 10-minute lapses that gifted the Power a head start.
Port's contributors were many. Danyle Pearce was his side's most creative player, Travis Boak the most efficient, while Matthew Broadbent and Brad Ebert were both very solid. Jay Schulz would have finished in his side's best if not for wayward kicking. But perhaps the most important contribution of all came from veteran Kane Cornes, who broke even on the stats sheet with Gary Ablett while kicking two goals of his own.
The Suns will take some heart from the performances of Day and Lynch, and Harley Bennell again showed glimpses of his talent, but it was older, less gifted players such as Sam Iles, Danny Stanley and former Saint Andrew McQualter that set the tone with their hardness and maturity. It's long past time for some of their younger peers to step up.
As for the Power, coach Matthew Primus can take satisfaction from the club's first back-to-back wins since the final two games of 2010.
''It feels like longer than that,'' he said after the match. ''We are improving, but we've still got a lot of work to do.''
Kane Cornes looked destined for the football scrap heap last year, but in the last two weeks he's taken two major scalps. Last week it was North's Brent Harvey; this week he all but neutralised Gary Ablett's influence on the contest - an individual win that went a long way to deciding the outcome of this match.
TWO BRIGHT SUNS
Sam Day was practically unsighted last season due to injury, but yesterday he played his most influential game, taking six marks - four contested - and kicking three goals. Tom Lynch also made his presence felt, with seven marks. If Charlie Dixon (injured) can make the grade, the Suns have a potent forward division to work with.
BROWN BEATEN BY SIREN BLUE
We all know the umpires and Campbell Brown aren't the best of friends, but seriously, his kick was halfway to the goals before the three-quarter-time siren blew. He had a right to feel aggrieved when no score was awarded.