Suns feel right at home as they surge into top eight

Oliver Caffrey |

Gold Coast co-captain Touk Miller kicked a goal to secure the 11-point win over Essendon.
Gold Coast co-captain Touk Miller kicked a goal to secure the 11-point win over Essendon.

Gold Coast have surged into the AFL top eight after toppling high-flying Essendon in an 11-point thriller to continue their unbeaten run at People First Stadium.

The Suns (7-5) have replaced reigning premiers Collingwood in eighth spot after inflicting the second-placed Bombers with their first defeat since round four.

Gold Coast were pushed all the way by the inaccurate Bombers, with co-captain Touk Miller sealing the 14.7 (91) to 11.14 (80) win by slotting a goal with 90 seconds left.

Miller was awarded a free kick about 60m from the Suns’ goal, but Essendon defender Jayden Laverde conceded a 50m penalty to make it a certainty for the star Gold Coast midfielder.

Ben King.
Ben King kicked four goals for the Suns and shares the lead on the Coleman Medal table. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

The Suns seemed to be cruising when they led by 21 points during the third quarter.

But Essendon charged back to level the scores early in the last term.

Gold Coast kicked three straight goals through Ben Long, Jack Lukosius and Tom Berry to pull away again.

But Nik Cox and Matt Guelfi’s goals gave the Bombers an opportunity to break Gold Coast hearts, until the Suns showed resilience rarely seen in the club’s 14-year history.

It was only the Suns’ third win in 15 attempts against Essendon and their first since 2016, when the Bombers endured a season decimated by players banned due to the supplements saga.

Gold Coast have a perfect record in home games this season – five wins at Carrara and two in Darwin.

A Suns staffer shows a tactics board bearing horror film stars.
A finals spot is on the cards for the Suns after they showed character against the Bombers. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Even after a rousing victory, one of the gutsiest in club history, Suns coach Damien Hardwick was already looking ahead to breaking their drought on the road when they face St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

“The challenge is set. We’re very good at home and we’ve got a great understanding of how to play here, but we need to start leaving our mark on the away games,” he said.

“They (St Kilda) had a good win against West Coast; if we play our very best footy we’re going to be hard to beat.”

Former St Kilda utility Long was outstanding with four goals, while star Suns forward Ben King slotted four of his own to go equal with Carlton spearhead Charlie Curnow in the Coleman Medal race.

Essendon skipper Zach Merrett (33 possessions, seven clearances) did everything to try and will his team over the line, blitzing the early stages of the final quarter.

Disappointed Essendon players.
Essendon players couldn’t hide their disappointment after their loss to the Gold Coast Suns. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Suns midfielder Noah Anderson responded from a quiet outing against Carlton last week to star with 33 touches and eight clearances.

Essendon star Jake Stringer was kept goalless by unheralded Suns defender Bodhi Uwland in a crucial shutdown job.

“We base our game on effort and intent, because that’s what really matters, and we’re delivering on that, so you’re frustrated when you don’t come away with the result,” Bombers coach Brad Scott said.

“The players are very, very disappointed, but we certainly don’t lose any heart out of that.”

Essendon will attempt to get back on the winners’ list when they face Carlton in a rivalry blockbuster at the MCG on Sunday night.