The Gold Coast Suns’ fairytale run came to an end after falling to the Cats on the road.
There was plenty of hype around the in-form Suns ahead of the Round 5 clash, with Stewart Dew’s side coming off three-straight wins.
While Geelong had the wood over Gold Coast since their inception, the Cats had been inconsistent in the lead up to their meeting.
The Suns had been in ripping form behind the lead of breakout star, Matt Rowell. The number one pick had averaged 21.3 disposals and booted six goals in his first four career games.
He was a monster in the contest, with the young gun averaging six tackles across his first four games too.
He was not only the runaway Rising Star favourite, but also astonishingly shot into contention for the Brownlow Medal.
His eye for goal proved to be a real asset for the Suns, with Rowell kicking two goals a game since the season’s resumption, including his first major against the Adelaide Crows in round three.
It highlighted his potential for the big moments, with the young gun steaming through the midfield before slotting the ball between the big sticks from beyond fifty on his non-preferred.
Rowell was even drawn comparisons to some of the game’s greats, with Geelong coach Chris Scott claiming that he reminds him of “Chris Judd and Joel Selwood when they started in the competition.” Handy comparisons.
However, disaster struck early for the Suns in their match against Geelong when Rowell went down with a shoulder injury after an awkward tackle from Cats midfielder Brandan Parfitt.
Rowell was sent to the rooms for what looked to be a dislocated shoulder and later emerged to the bench in a sling. The Suns confirmed this week that Rowell has suffered a dislocated shoulder and would be sent for surgery, all but ending his season.
The Suns continued to play with high intensity and tempo following Rowell’s departure, but mental and skill errors in defence lead to Geelong winning the game 89-52.
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It begs the question…can the Suns win without Matt Rowell?
Gold Coast will be searching for players to step up in Rowell’s absence and multiple Suns have already shown flashes this season.
Vice captain Touk Miller has had a strong start to his 2020 campaign, averaging 22.5 disposals and 4.3 tackles a game while providing high tempo play around the contest.
Former Crow Hugh Greenwood has added much needed grunt to the midfield, averaging 15.4 disposals and leading the AFL in tackles.
Greenwood excels at shutting down the opposition around the contest to give his ruckman another chance to win the ball.
The basketball convert has shown that he could be the player to drive his side forward in the engine room after picking up 21 disposals, 11 tackles and six clearances against the Cats.
Lachie Weller has performed well over the start of the season with 19.3 disposals a game so far and a strong 3.5 tackles a game.
The former Docker has also shown a good eye for the scoreboard with four goals over the season, including two long rangers against Geelong.
Dual premiership Tiger Brandon Ellis has also stepped up in his first five games at the club, averaging 20.3 disposals and three tackles thus far and bringing leadership and a winner’s mentality from Punt Road.
Brayden Fiorini will likely be reprieved after struggling in the early parts of this season. However, the young midfielder showed what he can do last year when he averaged 25.4 disposals and 4.8 tackles per game.
Youngster, Ben King has looked beyond his years, kicking 10 goals so far in just his second season to sit equal second in the Coleman Medal.
King had Mark Blicavs following him around all game against the Cats but still managed to boot three goals.
After Rowell went down, the Suns were their own worst enemy. Mental errors plagued their game and they gave away too much possession in defence. There is undoubtedly a massive hole leftover in Rowell’s absence.
However, that shouldn’t stop the high intensity and swagger the Suns are finally playing with.