By Ant Wingard
Gold Coast produced their first ever victory in AFLW history as they dominated Richmond to run away 11-point winners. Here’s five key takeaways from the contest.
The SUNS like to take the game on
Gold Coast’s first foray into the AFLW scene was encouraging, albeit somewhat subdue given the torrential weather which hampered game-play in their narrow loss to Greater Western Sydney. In Round 2 though, the SUNS, with the benefit of far better weather, were able to play their natural game style. The SUNS dominated on the fast break against Richmond and were effectively able to curb the influence of the Tigers’ rebounding defenders with their fast movement of the ball. David Lake’s game plan allows the side to create the overlap through the midfield, enhancing the team’s ability to win back the football. From there, the team spread the football – wide and quickly – to a number of key runners like Cheyenne Hammond, Tiarna Ernst and Jamie Stanton. In a game of territory like AFLW, the team’s ability to move the ball quickly is a huge positive.
Four uncontested marks and measured movement up the field
Gold Coast blitzed out of the blocks to kick multiple goals in each of the first two terms but it was Jaqui Yorston’s goal in the third team which truly set the SUNS on the course for their first ever AFLW victory. After giving away a free kick on centre wing, Jade Pregelj intercepted the ensuing kick across half-back to ignite a flawless passage of play to kick the SUNS ahead. From there, she found Kate Surman in the traditional centre half-back position, who quickly switched to Sally Riley on the opposing half-back flank. Riley moved the ball further up the wing – the slowest movement in the chain as a Richmond forward had finally pressed up to man the mark. Riley then moved the ball onto Molly Ritson, who found herself in acres of space with her direct opponent the player who had pushed up to cover Riley in the prior possession. With the ball now with Ritson, it was her who was tasked with making the riskiest kick of the chain – a sharp, low hit-up to Paige Parker. With Richmond defenders circling, Ritson threaded the needle and Parker marked truly; quickly wheeling around to move the ball inside 50. Yorston – who gave away the initial free kick – spoiled a one-on-one, mopped up the crumbs and snapped truly to edge the SUNS 16-points ahead. The whole sequence, from Pregelj mark to Yorston goal lasted just 32 seconds but proved a pivotal moment in the game.
Kate Surman was born for AFLW
Two seasons ago, Kate Surman stood head and shoulders above her teammates at QAFLW-side Maroochydore to the point where it was impossible to fit in all of her highlights into one five-minute clip. Fast forward to now and Surman produced a clinical performance in her home debut as one of the best – if not the best – player on Metricon Stadium. She finished with 12 disposals, six tackles and two goals in a crowning moment for one of the SUNS’ unsung heroes. After the game, Surman sent a warning to the AFLW’s other 13 teams via the stadium’s PA system – “You better be prepared to play against us,” she said.
Queensland footy in good hands
With now two AFLW teams in the sunshine state, the demand for quality Queensland players coming through. Luckily, the quality has held up at the coal face and echoes the sentiment of many of Queensland women’s football brains trust in saying the state is one of the best for women’s footballers. Against Richmond, 15 of the SUNS’ 21 players against the Tigers were from Queensland while Richmond skipper Katie Brennan also claims a stake in the state sweepstakes. Of those 15, most bared a significant influence on the game’s result. Jamie Stanton was perhaps the best with 20 disposals, while Kate Surman – more on her later, Jade Pregelj, Jacqui Yorston and Dee Heslop (who had six tackles) also performed well. Add to that the 7000+ strong crowd that has turned out for the SUNS first home game.
Gold Coast can play fast, but hell can they also tackle
There was something in this Gold Coast performance that was reminiscent of the 2013 Fremantle side that made the Grand Final in the men’s space. Outside of their outside speed and accurate short-kicking game that cut through Richmond’s press, the SUNS’ ability to get sheer numbers to Richmond ball carriers and the contest was textbook. Throughout the game, Gold Coast laid 73 tackles – 20 more than the Tigers – and worked tirelessly to press upfield and circle numbers around the ball carrier. That meant it was difficult for the Tigers to weave through the middle of the ground and forward entries were hard to come by. Gold Coast boast a plethora of pronounced tackles in the form of Yorston, Kate Surman, Jamie Stanton, Dee Heslop and Ellie Hampson and it was those names who set the tone.