Suns fail to rise to challenge
GARY Ablett might yet be a part of Gold Coast's first ever finals campaign ... in 2015.
Just days ago, the footy world was lamenting the prospect of the Suns skipper being forced to watch on from the sidelines while resting his shoulder after surgery as his teammates ran out in September.
But, if Saturday night was any guide, Gold Coast has considerable work to do to close the deal - and dispel the myth that would have grown legs after its effort against the Western Bulldogs again showed that it's a case of no Ablett, no Suns.
Following Essendon's barnstorming win over Collingwood yesterday, the Suns have now dropped out of the top eight for the first time since round four - incidentally, the last time the Bombers were in it.
On paper the Suns have a favourable draw. After a week's break because of the coming split round, they take on Brisbane. But, wouldn't the Lions, for one, love to put a further dent in the finals chances of their Queensland rivals at the Gabba.
Such has been the improvement this season of young midfielders Dion Prestia, David Swallow, Jaeger O'Meara and Harley Bennell, the Suns were expected to cover Ablett's absence adequately enough to hold their spot in the eight.
But, they weren't shown up by a more experienced premiership contender in Cairns, but by a bunch of their contemporaries - a young Bulldogs side missing their own superstar skipper, Ryan Griffen (illness), no less.
You could use the excuse it was the result of their last-quarter heroics against the Magpies the previous week, when they had no fit players on the bench, for the reason they fell away so alarmingly in the final term. But will it wash?
The Suns hadn't had so few disposals in a game (305) since playing Port Adelaide in round 21 last year - and finished with 115 less than the Dogs. Prestia (22), O'Meara (22), Swallow (20) and Danny Stanley (20) were the only Suns to top 20 disposals - the Dogs had 10.
And it was the young pup in Jackson Macrea who delivered the closest thing to an Ablett-like performance with 43 touches and two goals, amounting to 170 Champion Data points. O'Meara (105) was the only Sun to crack the ton in that area.
Macrea's performance came in response to a spray from his coach Brendan McCartney last week. Maybe it's time for Suns coach Guy McKenna to deliver to a rocket or two of his own.
So many Suns simply failed to rise to the challenge. Acting captain Michael Rischitelli had just nine disposals and Aaron Hall seven, and no goals.
The shot of dejected pair Sean Lemmons and Jack Martin on the bench in the last term sporting black eyes, Lemmons also with a bandage wrapped around his head, said it all.
But it was probably the Suns' confidence of achieving success without Ablett that took the biggest hit.