Early alarm bells as GWS Giants beat Hardwick’s Suns

Alex Mitchell |

GWS midfield bull Tom Green racked up 30 touches, eight clearances and a goal.
GWS midfield bull Tom Green racked up 30 touches, eight clearances and a goal.

Adam Kingsley has secured early bragging rights over former coaching mentor Damien Hardwick, with his GWS side grabbing a pre-season win over the Gold Coast Suns in Canberra.

In Hardwick’s final rehearsal before officially resuming his AFL coaching tenure, alarm bells were ringing when the Suns fell 65 points behind in the third term on Thursday, before rallying late to reduce the deficit to 44 in the 15.15 (105) to 9.7 (61) loss.

Kingsley, who coached under Hardwick at Richmond for four years, saw his side dominate clearances and contested possession on Thursday, while producing their trademark transition football to slice up the Suns.

Adam Kingsley (left) and Damien Hardwick
Adam Kingsley (left) and Damien Hardwick worked together in the coaching set-up at Richmond. (Scott Barbour/AAP PHOTOS)

It wasn’t the encouraging performance the Suns would have been hoping for, at one stage conceding 11 unanswered goals as GWS ran rampant.

“We understand it’s going to be a process and a journey for us, we’re certainly not the finished product right here, right now,” Suns assistant coach Shaun Grigg said post-game.

“It was just about implementing some of the things we’ve been working on in the summer and at stages we did see that.

“For the players to get a good understanding of what that looks like and what that feels like out on the field has been really good in the first couple of practice matches.

“We feel like there’s some glimpses there of what we want to achieve.”

The Suns were warming up for their March 9 season opener against Richmond, where Hardwick will battle his former side.

GWS take on Collingwood later that day in a preliminary final rematch, and the Giants will be confident they can avenge that defeat after running rings around the Suns at Manuka Oval.

Midfield bull Tom Green looked as powerful as ever, racking up 30 touches, eight clearances and a goal.

Winger Xavier O’Halloran (25 disposals) carved up the Suns through the middle of the ground.

This allowed their forwards to cash in, captain Toby Greene looking in mid-season form with three goals as a constant threat up front.

GWS assistant coach Ben Hart said the display was “pretty strong” and an improvement on the previous week’s hit-out against Sydney.

“Pre-season games are always interesting because sometimes they’re ready to rock and roll and sometimes they’re not quite there,” he said.

“Last week was a little bit of a wake up call for us and as we know the season comes around really quickly.

“In nine days time we’re playing, so we were really comfortable with what we saw tonight.”

Effort appeared lacking at times for the Suns, who hit the front early when silky forward Jack Lukosius slotted three straight first-quarter goals.

What followed was a 76-3 onslaught during which they looked entirely uncompetitive, perhaps reminding Hardwick of the size of the job in front of him at the Gold Coast.

Hardwick’s troops did rally late and booted five straight goals in the second half when the Giants rested some of their key cogs.

It was a night to forget for Suns key forward Ben King.

After signing a two-year contract extension last week, King failed to register a disposal until 30 seconds before halftime. He finished the match with a miserly four touches to go with a solitary behind.