Andrew then swapped places with Sean Lemmens, who’d been sent to man Tom Stewart as a defensive forward. Lemmens quietened Stengle – and Andrew had his moments of him too – but the damage was done.
But the best player for the Cats was Jeremy Cameron, who again roamed far and wide for his 21 possessions and three goals. Mark Blicavs was immense, too, and he often stood Suns co-captain Touk Miller at center bounces and around the ground.
The indefatigable Miller was still his side’s best player – he finished with 36 possessions – but it was a fascinating duel, and Blicavs was superb too, later moving into the ruck after Rhys Stanley was mysteriously substituted.
The Suns were also dying of self-inflicted wounds. Decimated by injuries in defense, where they’ve lost their best ball-users in Lachie Weller and Wil Powell, their turnovers were frequent, and punished instantly. Even Miller gave one up to Max Holmes.
A brighter spot was Izak Rankine, who – if he wasn’t already eye-catching enough – had dyed his hair peroxide blond for the occasion. Rankine is the subject of feverish trade speculation; his two goals from him showed why Suns teammates are pleading with him to stay.
The Suns kicked three quick goals to start the third quarter, but the ball remained camped down in Geelong’s forward line for the rest of the term, the final inside-50 count of 72–43 a measure of the Cats’ dominance.
With just one home and away match against West Coast to come, Geelong looks perfectly balanced. Patrick Dangerfield played with his old explosive energy, and while Hawkins continues to amaze – he had four direct assists – Cameron is their real trump card.
But as has been pointed out many times now, it’s the growth of less heralded players and a faster, more adventurous game plan – one worthy of their immense collective talent – that have the Cats primed for their best tilt at a flag in a decade.
Gold Coast Suns 2.2 4.2 7.2 9.5 (59)
gelong 7.3 11.5 15.9 17.11 (119)
GOALS – Gold Coast Suns: Rankine 2 Day Hollands Davies Anderson Lukosius Witts Flanders. Gelong: Stengle 3 Cameron 3 Miers 2 Holmes 2 Blicavs 2 Parfitt 2 C Guthrie Menegola Hawkins Tuohy.
BEST – Gold Coast Suns: Miller Ellis Anderson Witts Ainsworth Rankine. Gelong: Cameron Blicavs Guthrie Holmes Stengle Dangerfield.
INJURIES – Gold Coast Suns: Day (knee) Rankine (shoulder). Gelong: Stanley replaced by O’Connor.
Umpires: Stephens Howorth Whetton.
J Cameron (G) 8
T Miller (GCS) 8
M Blicavs (G) 8
C Guthrie (G) 7
P Dangerfield (G) 7
Wobbly Dockers beat Eagles to secure home final
Fremantle have secured an AFL home final after overcoming a bad case of the goalkicking wobbles to post a 24-point win over West Coast in a spiteful western derby.
All-in melees and individual tit-for-tats were common throughout Saturday night’s rain-affected match at Optus Stadium but Fremantle booted 4.11 to 2.3 after half-time to secure the win in front of 53,816 fans.
The result means Fremantle can’t finish lower than sixth, and they can still secure a prized top-four berth if they beat GWS next week and other results fall their way.
Dockers ruckman Sean Darcy won the Glendinning-Allan Medal as best field for his 16-disposal, 57 hit-out effort.
Blake Acres (29 disposals, one goal), Will Brodie (28 possessions, seven clearances), and David Mundy (25 disposals, eight clearances) dominated in the midfield courtesy of Darcy’s dominance.
But despite snaring the win, doubts still remain about Fremantle’s ability to thrive in the wet.
The Dockers entered the match having lost to Gold Coast, Collingwood and Melbourne in slippery conditions this year and they were unable to put West Coast to the sword despite the Eagles missing 10 first-choice players.
Fremantle’s wayward goalkicking ensured West Coast remained within striking distance for most of the match. But it was the defensive duo of Tom Barrass and Shannon Hurn that truly epitomized West Coast’s fighting spirit.
Barrass (20 disposals, 12 marks) restricted Rory Lobb to just 0.1 from seven disposals, while Hurn racked up 28 touches and nine rebound 50s.
Lobb was subbed out late in the match after aggravating his right shoulder injury in the third quarter.
The match was a willing contest befitting a derby with a huge melee breaking out in the opening quarter in what will no doubt result in a flurry of ends.
Caleb Serong was target No.1 early on, with Jack Redden doing his best to ruffle the feathers of the Fremantle star. The tactic worked a treat, with Serong the core culprit when Fremantle gave away a 50-metre penalty that led to a goal on the line to Redden.
Redden gave away a 50m penalty of his own late in the opening term to gift a goal to Andrew Brayshaw. Jackson Nelson targeted Brayshaw at every opportunity, with the fancy Brownlow Medal visibly frustrated at times.
An early downpour ensured the first half was played in slippery conditions and the Dockers led by four points at the long break.
Fremantle dominated the third term but their return of 2.8 meant the 17-point margin was still within reach for West Coast.
However, with Darcy dominating the ruck, the Eagles couldn’t work their way back into the match despite fighting right until the end.
FREMANTLE 3.4 5.6 7.14 9.17 (71)
WEST COAST 4.0 5.2 6.3 7.5 (47)
Fremantle: Frederick 2, Walters 2, Brayshaw, Acres, Schultz, Darcy, Serong.
West Coast: Waterman 2, Dixon, Langdon, Darling, Redden, O’Neill.
Fremantle: Darcy, Acres, Walters, Brayshaw.
West Coast: Hurn, Barrass, Duggan, O’Neill.
umpires Johanson, Nicholls, Hefferman.
CROWD 53,816 at Optus Stadium