In March, not many people would have foreseen this game to be much entertainment. The Gold Coast Suns, entering their third year in the competition, have now exceeded all expectations, and have taken the long handle to the likes of powerhouse teams Hawthorn and Essendon. Against another struggling team in the Brisbane Lions, the Suns shape up as a real contender at the Gabba.
The Lions have also turned heads, taking down Essendon in emphatic style and overturning a large margin against Geelong at home. However, other top teams, including Hawthorn, have run rings around the Lions after a certain stage of the game, and this has seen the maroon, blue and gold outfit struggle against the powerhouses.
Now, the Gabba sees two evenly matched teams take each other on Saturday afternoon. There is plenty of prowess from both sides, as well as a few setbacks.
Dion Prestia. The 20 year old has had many triumphs in 2013, and has become a key player on a list which continues to rapidly develop and surprise. Last weekend against the Crows he outshone captain Gary Ablett in every aspect. Prestia is quick and very good at reading the play. Brisbane must shut his significant impact down, otherwise the ball is going to be delivered into the Gold Coast forward line too much for the Lions liking.
Factor number two about the Sun‘s season for 2013 is that they are not just a one man show. Young gun Jaeger O’Meara has immediately made his mark, former Western Bulldog Jarrod Harbrow has shaken off a couple of quiet seasons, and Prestia is a vital cog in the midfield run.
Sitting 13th on the ladder with a 5-8 record, the Suns are still in finals contention. This game against Brisbane is a must win if they want to kickstart a run towards September. The run and the ability to take control of the game is there, and the Suns are confident after some morale-boosting wins.
Key backman Daniel Merrett is back, but veteran midfielder Simon Black is out with a groin injury. Fans will want another win after so many positives in 2013. Jack Redden, Daniel Rich, Tom Rockliff and Dayne Zorko (the Lion’s “generation next”) are having outstanding seasons; but the burden cannot fall on them if the Lions get caught flat-footed.
Pressure also comes down on skipper Jonathan Brown. Ash McGrath and Brent Staker are other handy targets, but they can also play a utility role to help send the ball up to the forward line. With Rory Thompson, Greg Broughton and superboot Trent McKenzie in the Suns backline, Brown needs support.
Risk also needs to be taken. All too often the Lions get picked off down in defence, allowing their opponents to score some easy goals. Putting it into the centre from a kick in may create a greater chance of a turnover, but it will also allow a corridor of speed, instead of getting taken down on the wings. Turn on the afterburners early, and the Lions are hot favourites.
A strong Brisbane crowd will want to see the pride of Brisbane town take out Q Clash 6. But it will not be easy. The Suns go from strength to strength each week, while the Lions biggest problem is finding a consistency that allows them to stay on their legs for four quarters against all teams. Experience the key on Saturday afternoon.
Lions by 16