Round 5 – Gold Coast v North Melbourne: Hoodoo horrors

4.35pm, Saturday 23 April 2016

Metricon Stadium, Robina, Qld

Tim Pegler

When the Gold Coast Suns hosted North Melbourne in 2015 there was a carnival feel. As a designated ‘family day’, the stadium was surrounded by a feast of food vans, live music acts, face-painting, Pixar movie promotions, a petting zoo, bouncy castles and even a rock-climbing wall. Unfortunately, (for those supporting the Kangas,) what followed inside the arena was far from G-rated.

Gary Ablett Junior, in his return from injury, snaffled about 310 touches. The enigmatic Charlie Dixon monstered the North defence, kicking a lazy seven goals. The Suns won by 55 points. If they’d kicked straight, the margin might have been closer to 100. For visiting Victorians, it was an R-rated splatter-fest unsuitable for children.

Less than a year later and the Roos are back at Metricon. The match preview points out North haven’t beaten Gold Coast, at any venue, since 2012. We’re sitting on top of the ladder. They’re stricken with injuries, illness and suspension. But it’s still a danger game.

At the first bounce it looks like ex-Roo Dan Currie has been having nightmares about facing Todd Goldstein. Currie concedes a free kick and his captain donates a 50-metre penalty. Goal to Goldie.

If Currie isn’t nervous, he should be. Goldstein controls the centre clearances and the Kangaroos deliver cleanly and frequently to Brown, Petrie and Waite. The Suns defenders look undersized. Ablett is hobbling with a corked calf.

Come the second quarter and the Suns won’t be eclipsed. They’re swift and run in numbers. They’ve got young key forwards with the size and skill to incinerate a defence. Tom Lynch marks so cleanly that pretty soon the Kangas are pitting two against him every time he leaps – and he’s still snatching the Sherrin from the air.

Lynch’s ‘sidekick’ is 203cm Peter Wright, playing his first game for the year and fourth overall. It’s not long since Peter was belting a footy around Flemington Primary School. Now he’s a Californian Redwood and exceedingly hard to out-reach. His first set shot, from outside 50, is booted with such thunderous force the umpires may need to call for a new ball.

In the middle, Aaron Hall, Matt Rosa and a twice-corked Ablett are shining. Currie is earning his guernsey at stoppages and Adam Saad gets the crowd excited with each frenetic dash. The Suns get within three points but make umpteen skill errors. North regroup through the grit and granite of Andrew Swallow and Jack Ziebell.

In the third quarter, Lynch and Wright look menacing and I’m feeling deja vu. The Kangaroos seem to be wilting; it’s been 30 degrees and, while the temperature has fallen, it’s still 71% humidity. The sticky air may be an issue as even Daniel Wells is dropping marks. Never a good omen.

The Gold Coasters cruise within three points again and I’m sensing an I Know What You Did Last Winter chill wind. Suddenly, Jack’s back. Ziebell and Cunnington bulldoze through the midfield. Atley dances along the flanks, linking with Dal Santo and Waite. The gluey air might be messing with skills but Shaun Higgins has the cool head needed to crush Gold Coast spirits. The margin is 21 points again.

In the final quarter the Suns’ turnovers are horrific and the Roos take full advantage. Big Ben Brown’s opponent seems to be missing in action. Lindsay Thomas rediscovers his mojo. It’s the Kangas in a canter by 38 points. Or maybe not.

This season’s success has been built on forward-line pressure and, at game’s end, it’s 14 tackles in the forward 50 to two. The tackling tenacity from Zeibell, Waite, Thomas and Petrie generates goals; North have scored over 100 points for a fifth successive game.

It’s opposition defenders who should be losing sleep.

Scores:

North Melbourne 6.4 10.8 13.10 18.11 (119)

Gold Coast 3.4  6.10 9.13 11.15 (81)

Goals:

Gold Coast: Lynch 4, Wright 3, Ablett 1, Ah Chee 1, Grant 1, Grant, Rischtelli

North Melbourne: Brown 4, Higgins 3, Waite 2, Petrie 2, Thomas 2, Goldstein 2, Ziebell, Gibson, Macmillan

Best:

Gold Coast: Hall, Lynch, Wright, Ablett, Rosa, Saad

North Melbourne: Higgins, Waite, Goldstein, Brown, Atley, Dal Santo

Umpires: Meredith,Ryan, Mollison

Crowd: 13,351

Our votes: Higgins (3), Waite (2), Goldstein (1)

Brownlow:

About

Tim Pegler may once have sported a blonde, Dermie-like mullet, but the evidence is elusive.

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