Buoyed by the recent appointment of triple premiership coach Damien Hardwick, Gold Coast has a golden chance to equal a club-best 10 season wins when it takes on 18th-placed North Melbourne, which could soon hold a juicy draft bounty.
The Kangaroos (2-20, 68.7%) are on a 20-match losing streak and, with a loss, would finish on the bottom of the AFL ladder, which would hand them Pick 1. There’s also a chance they end up with Pick 2 — as compensation for losing free agent Ben McKay — while they could also gain exclusive access to gun Tasmanian midfielder Ryley Sanders, who’s widely regarded as a top-10 prospect according to most scouts.
The Suns (9-13, 93.0%) this week appointed Hardwick as coach for the next six years, but will have their final game under interim coach Steven King, who’s keen to lead the Suns to a 10th win for the season, which would equal their 2022 record.
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This match gets underway at 1.45pm AEST from Blundstone Arena.
There was no late changes, with North Melbourne’s Daniel Howe and Gold Coast’s Rory Atkins named as the substitutes.
Watch it live on Fox Footy (Channel 503) from 1.30pm AEST.
QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
There were no late changes for either side, with Daniel Howe (Kangaroos) and Rory Atkins (Suns) named the starting subs.
The Suns for the fast start, with Sam Flanders soccering through the first major before Levi Casboult added another major. And when Flanders kicked his second — thanks to a sensational pass from Noah Anderson — Gold Coast had an early 19-point lead.
The Kangaroos responded with an excellenmt passage of play, which led to Nick Larkey’s first goal of the game. And then Larkey set up the second major to Darcy Tucker, who kicked truly from a set-shot directly in front.
“They needed to respond, because that first five or so minutes, they looked like they were being walked around and Gold Coast were taking marks at will,” triple premiership forward Cameron Mooney told Fox Footy.
But a classy snap goal to Malcolm Rosas late in the quarter gave the Suns an 11-point lead at the first change.
After Curtis Taylor missed a set-shot at the start of the second term, Suns veteran David Swallow took a strong mark inside 50 and converted to extend his side’s lead.
And when Brayden Fiorni and Touk Miller nailed goals on the run, Gold Coast had a 28-point advantage.
But again a mini North fightback was led by Larkey, who kicked his second goal and set up Taylor’s first major.
Larkey then kicked another two goals off the back of brilliant ball movement to cut the Suns’ lead again.
“Settle in. Nick Larkey is threatening to put on a show,” Fox Footy’s Dwayne Russell said.
Mooney added: “You can throw tanking out the window.”
And after Paul Curtis responded to Rosas’ second goal, the Kangaroos were within six points at half-time.
A few spotfires broke out just before half-time thanks to a solid Matt Rowell tackle and Jy Simpkin off-ball bump.
“That’s a solid bump … blindsided him, complete cheap shot,” Bulldogs legend Brad Johnson told Fox Footy.
Eddie Ford gave North Melbourne the perfect start to the third term, converting two set-shot goals to give the Roos the lead for the first time in the game.
“You look at uncontested possession at the moment … they’re absolutely belting them at the moment, North,” Mooney said.
Johnson added: “They’re confident now North Melbourne, look at them.”
Larkey’s epic game continued, kicking two goals on the trot — including one from an ill-disciplined free kick via Charlie Ballard — to take his game tally to six as North’s lead extending to 13 points.
“That’s a big hit. That’s just silly from Ballard,” Johnson said.
Larkey was then on the end of some terrific ball movement from the Kangaroos, marking inside 50 and converting his seventh goal as the team’s remarkable fightback continued.
And when Simpkin nailed a running goal, the Roos remarkably led by 23 points.
“This could be a great day for North,” Mooney said.
A late Suns goal cut North’s lead to 16 points at the final change. But that lead was extended to 23 at the start of the fourth quarter when Aidan Corr kicked his first goal for North — and just his third career major.
Mabior Chol delivered for the Suns with a composed set-shot, but ex-Sun Hugh Greenwood conjured a brilliant soccer goal — after a goal review — to steady for North Melbourne. Sub Daniel Howe snapped a clever goal, giving his side a 30-point lead.
And Larkey wasn’t done, snapping a goal to make it a career-high eight majors for the day.
The Suns made an unlikely late rally, booting three conseucitve goals to make it an 18-point game.
But Curtis pulled off a stunning crumbing goal to seal North Melbourne’s first win in 20 weeks — and Pick 1 was West Coast’s.
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