Gold Coast's Maverick Weller puts Patrick Dangerfield under pressure. Photo: Getty Images
ADELAIDE 3.6 9.13 15.18 22.21 (153) GOLD COAST 1.3 5.6 7.6 9.8 (62)
GOALS Adelaide: Johncock 4, Callinan 4, Petrenko 2, van Berlo 2, Dangerfield 2, Thompson 2, Riley, Smith, Talia, Porplyzia, Tippett, Jacobs. Gold Coast: Ablett 2, May 2, Matera, Brown, Gillbee, Shaw, Lynch.
BEST Adelaide: Dangerfield, Thompson, Mackay, Callinan, Smith, Jacobs. Gold Coast: Ablett, Matera, Bennell, Lynch, Dixon, Stanley.
INJURIES Adelaide: Walker replaced in selected side by Lynch.
REPORTS Gold Coast: Brown reported by field umpire R Findlay for bumping or making forceful contact front-on to Riley during the second quarter.
UMPIRES R Findlay, S Hay, C Fleer.
CROWD 35,463 at AAMI Stadium.
IT WAS always going to be an Adelaide win over Gold Coast, ultimately by 91 points with the Crows running out the game strongly in their finals preparation.
But it was the outstanding performances by three Brownlow Medal favourites - Gary Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Thompson - that captured the most interest in this one-sided game, and the votes from this game may decide the best and fairest player for 2012.
At half-time, Ablett and Dangerfield each had 20 disposals, and Thompson 19. Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson then made a move that should help his star players - shifting Nathan van Berlo on to Ablett and restricting him to just six disposals in the second half.
This is how Andrew Demetriou should read the votes from this game on medal night on Monday, September 24: ''Three votes, Adelaide, P Dangerfield: 36 disposals (17 contested), eight inside-50s, three tackles, two goals.
''Two votes, Gold Coast, G Ablett: 26 disposals (15 contested), eight inside-50s, seven tackles, two goals.
''One vote, Adelaide, S Thompson: 30 disposals (11 contested), three inside-50s, three tackles, two goals - and four frees against.''
And the commentators may say, ''Ineligible'': (perhaps) Jared Petrenko (Adelaide), who may come under review, and Campbell Brown (Gold Coast), who was reported for bumping or making forceful contact front-on against Aidan Riley.
They are remarkable stats by Dangerfield, Ablett and Thompson, three genuine stars this season. Rarely has a trio stood out so much in a game, especially in the first half. But it wasn't just the possessions they gathered - Dangerfield and Thompson contributed to almost 17 per cent of Adelaide's total disposals - but their tenacity, teamwork and leadership that inspired teammates around them.
The features of Adelaide's performance included having 12 goalkickers and scoring more than 100 points for the 14th time in 22 matches. It produced 43 scores from 57 inside-50s.
Graham Johncock (four goals) continued his reincarnation as a forward, Ian Callinan (four goals) looms as an ace in the finals, and the effort of young defender Brodie Smith was again encouraging. And the list of quality performances continued down the list.
Concerns with the Crows included taking time to take control over the second-to-bottom side, and while the scoring flowed, the inaccuracy that dogged them earlier this season returned.
Despite the big margin, Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna had good reason to see positives from this game. The Suns competed vigorously against Adelaide in Adelaide for half a game, and the experience was invaluable. The continued progress of some talented young players such as Harley Bennell, Jacob Gillbee, Taylor Hine, Kyal Horsley, Tom Lynch and Jeremy Taylor was obvious.
But the coach could not have summed up the situation better when he said: ''It was like the M1 tanks playing the little dune buggies.''
McKenna added: ''We have the smarts to compete, but just that physical and contested brand of footy Adelaide can play is why they are playing finals football.
''If you look at the Sydneys, and the Hawthorns and West Coast on Friday, they are just very big sides. We have had two years of a very measured program and we will get Stephen Schwerdt [Adelaide's fitness coach] up to the Gold Coast next year and his experiences will say we will take another step physically and that's going to able our boys to compete for longer.''
Adelaide was really in a ''no win'' situation - the now second-to-top side playing the second-to-bottom team. But ultimately it could not have done much better. The effort by the Suns was far from hopeless, and importantly the Crows finished the game like a hungry competitor.
Given the circumstances, it was a good preparation for the finals series. We will be saying that about the Suns sooner than later.
Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna said he had no doubt the Suns had a better season. ''Our percentage moved up and we won more quarters than we did last year,'' he said. ''Most of our grunt work and heavy lifting was done by our second-year players in the AFL system. That was the exciting thing [from the season].''
Taylor Walker was a late withdrawal for Adelaide because of a sore hip, but will be available for the qualifying final. The Crows will also regain Bernie Vince (fluid on the knee).
Rising Star favourite Daniel Talia kicked his first goal in the AFL - in his 31st game. And it was a beauty, a set shot from the 50-metre line on the northern left flank. Later, teammate Ian Callinan admitted he didn't give Talia ''any hope'' of kicking the goal.