AFL 2024: Gold Coast Suns forming Fortress on Gold Coast as Essendon wastes chances

Essendon coach Brad Scott will demand an explanation from the refereeing department after two key decisions against the Bombers late in their 11-point loss to Gold Coast on Sunday night.

Jayden Laverde was caught out for one of footy’s most touch-and-go rules when the Essendon defender improperly returned the ball to Brayden Fiorini instead of Touk Miller.

Just moments earlier, Laverde had intercepted Miller’s pass inside 50 and Essendon looked to break through Jye Caldwell before being taken in by a Suns double attack.

Miller was awarded a free kick holding the ball, but Laverde, not knowing whose shot it was, instead passed the ball to the Suns’ closest player, Fiorini.

Miller was then moved near the top of the post and slotted home the match-winner with just under two minutes remaining.

“I think Jayden just threw it to the player he thought took the free kick,” Scott said.

“But again, judging is really difficult because people say use common sense, but they also want judges to judge by the letter of the law, so I’m not too worried about it (the decision).”

But the Bombers boss said he would ask for clarification on the deliberate interpretation of the off-field rules after Nick Hind’s kick from the ground early in the quarter cost the Suns a free-kick for insufficient intent.

Scott said his players were “confused” by the call, which came after Hind kicked the ball downfield while running towards the touchline under pressure from a Suns opponent.

“I think if you kick the ball off the ground, the refs usually call intentional offside, so we just need to clarify that so I can communicate to our players because they seemed a little confused (with) some of those intentional (decisions),” Scott said.

But he refused to use the trial as an excuse for the Bombers’ first loss since round five.

“I didn’t think the officiating affected the game tonight,” Scott said.

“Whichever team won, they deserved to win.

“I thought (the judges) had a really big challenge this round because there were some changes (in the interpretations) and I think the judges are in an incredibly difficult position. They are doing well.”

The loss was exacerbated by an apparent hip injury to leading man Kyle Langford, who was ejected from the game in the third quarter.

For only the second time this season, Langford was held scoreless in a game.

Scott was unsure of the severity of the injury, although he did not appear overly concerned about the availability of his key forward ahead of Sunday night’s blockbuster against Carlton.

“Sounds like a hip pointer. A plug in the hip, but that’s hard to clarify,” the coach said.

“It doesn’t sound too serious, but it was a feature issue and it couldn’t work.”

Veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein was out late on Sunday night with a sore ankle but should be fit in time for the Blues clash.

THE SUN’S FORTRESS HOLDS FIRM AGAINST THE DON’S DESPERATION

Time to start using the “F” word, Suns fans.

No, not the final. Not yet. Fortress.

Gold Coast are now 5-0 at People First Stadium and it was their finest hour yet. Sunday’s 11-point win over in-form Essendon lacked some of the polish and poise of previous home games but was the most impressive of the season using context.

The Suns are largely undermatched at home this year, but from a distance the Bombers looked like a real litmus test. Download this and we can start talking about the “F” word.

Earlier, Richmond, Adelaide, West Coast and Hawthorn were comfortably dealt at home. Sunday’s tussle was the first real look at the Suns under serious pressure to defend their Carrara fortress.

There were more than a few opportunities for the wheel to come off.

When Nick Hind got a goal in the third quarter after the Suns players were adamant that his shot was touched, the Carrara crowd went a little wild.

On the line for the home side, Jed Walter looked certain to score a crucial goal after a textbook hold on the ball – only for the referee to keep the whistle in his pocket.

And then came perhaps the toughest call of all. When Sam Durham was marked 50m out and looked to turn onto his right foot, he was tackled by Charlie Ballard who thought he had earned a free kick. Instead, the Bombers midfielder was taken to the top of the post and his next goal earned the visitors an equaliser.

At the time, Essendon’s win seemed ominous. Despite the incredible pressure, however, the Suns remained upright. Perhaps fittingly, it was the decisive call in the hosts’ direction that sealed the deal.

Brayden Fiorini may have feared costing his side the game with his bizarre brain fade running toward the goal in the third quarter when he centered on a 1-on-3 when he had an open Bailey Humphrey in goal.

But the winger’s quick thinking to claim the ball after a late Suns free-kick – which should have gone to Touk Miller – put his captain on top of the post for the seal.

Damien Hardwick will have a lot to dissect in the coming days. His team often created pressure by playing too much handball in their defensive half, and the transition game was sometimes not full. Some decisions were bad and momentum swings almost cost them the game.

But deep down, the Suns coach will be heartened by the resilience his side showed when put under the Bomber blower.

The Suns fell in many of their usual KPIs. AFL team no. 1 in the territory lost the internal battle of the 50, 54-58, and was also defeated for the first time this season at home in an elimination, 28-30.

It wasn’t a victory built on the backs of their superstar midfielders, but a solid defensive performance and a bit of class from the lower lights.

Sam Collins put Kyle Langford in his pocket and kept him there all night. The Bombers’ edge went almost unnoticed in the forward line, which saw the ball nearly 60 times and was replaced midway through the final quarter.

Bombers captain Zach Merrett looked set to mount a comeback with a brilliant kick in the third quarter, but his three dropouts – which could and perhaps should have been goals – proved costly.

It was a microcosm of the Bombers night. When they had momentum in the first and third quarters, they just couldn’t capitalize.

At the other end is Ben Long, who scored a career-best four goals among 100 players and was among the Suns’ many game-winners.

After a poor day against the Blues last weekend, Noah Anderson came alive in the second half and was instrumental in snuffing out the Bombers’ momentum in the final quarter with some brilliant work on the roof.

The Suns used a different plan to beat the Bombers and it’s one they must now employ on the road to St Kilda next weekend. They are a familiar commodity at People First Stadium. The next challenge is to break the streak of 12 away defeats.

Do that and then Suns fans can start thinking about another “F” word.

THE SUN ENDURES DESPERATE DONS

—Hannah Davies

Gold Coast held off a desperate Essendon unit to shoot themselves into the top eight and continue their finals push in a thrilling event at People First Stadium.

The 91-80 victory – their first win over the Bombers since 2016 – was the result of a complete surge from the team and a career-best 100-game hitting streak from Ben Long.

Gold Coast snapped a top two team’s four-game winning streak to remain undefeated at home to go 7-5 on the season.

The Bombers started with a bang when they hit the first major of the day through the boot of former Sun Peter Wright, who played 66 games for Gold Coast over six seasons before moving south in 2021.

Essendon were able to link up the center corridor with ease and again it was Wright who delivered the ball to help Harrison Jones seal the club’s second goal.

At the start of the first meeting, Gold Coast’s saving grace appeared to be their defensive structure, led by Sam Collins, before the Long mainstay sparked some fire for the home side in his landmark game, but they still ended the first term behind .

Down by nine, Mac Andrew continued to build in the backline, racking up 17 disposals and one tackle in the first half.

Taking advantage, Long hit his second of the day after a long high ball spilled out of his hands in a one-on-one battle in front of him to put them in front for the first time all game.

Some unusual football ensued – including Jake Stringer’s underfoot pass in the shape of a tunnel ball in a three-on-one – and the game was tied until the Suns managed to take an eight-point lead into halftime.

Less than two minutes into the second half, Ben King led his side to a 14-point lead, rewarding a handy pick-up from Andrew in their defensive 50 points. The young defender continued to add to his superb performances and push for a goal. they pass accurately to the in-form Long at the top of the 50, who scores with ease.

Inaccuracy became the theme of the third term for Essendon as Zach Merrett’s shot missed, followed by another key Nic Martin miss. It took 15 minutes for Essendon to finally find some magic through the hands of Jya Caldwell, who crossed from about 40 metres.

What they lacked in accuracy, the Bombers made up for in desperation as a wonder goal from Nick Cox brought the game within five points again.

Discontent from Gold Coast fans followed when Charlie Ballard was penalized for tackling Sam Durham, who he believed was playing, when he took a delivery inside 50. A major from Durham, followed by another from Menzie, saw the People First Stadium come alive during the match. lifted to 67-all.

The final moments were poignant as both sides provided equal parts excitement and heartbreak for their respective supporters. Stringer’s wayward shot put the game in the Suns’ hands before Matt Guelfi pulled them back to just five with two and a half minutes left. But a 50-metre penalty was awarded for failing to return the ball to the right player, nailing Essendon’s coffin.

The Bombers now turn their attention to a string of games against top-eight rivals, starting with the Blues ahead of the bye, while Gold Coast head to Marvel Stadium to take on St Kilda.

INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE BENEFITS VISITORS

A controversial goal from Nick Hind helped Essendon gain momentum in the third term but is likely to make a bigger mark on the game. Ned Moyle claimed to have touched Hind’s goal and immediately raised his hands to the referees to suggest a review of the goal, but his calls went unanswered as the officials felt there was insufficient evidence for his case.

BEST CAREER MILESTONE

In his 100th AFL game, Ben Long had a career-high haul of four goals on the night, along with 13 disposals and four marks. Along with King, Long provided a key finish inside 50 for the home side and his accuracy was not lacking.

GOLD COAST: 2.2, 6.4, 9.6, 14.7 (91)

ESSENDON: 3.5, 4.8, 6.13, 11.14 (80)

OBJECTIVES

Sun: B Long 4, B Humphry, B King 4, B Ainsworth, J Lukosius 2, T Berry, T Miller

bombers: P Wright, H Jones, J Kelly, N Cox 3, J Caldwell,

N Hind, S Durham, J Menzie, M Guelfi

THE BEST

Sunnies: Andrew, Collins, Long, Walter, King, Berry, Miller

bombers: Merrett, Cox, Hind, Martin, Heppell

Viewers: 21,759

Originally posted as Essendon coach Brad Scott to seek answers from players ‘confused’ by referees’ decisions

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