The NEAFL Swans on Saturday afternoon put the "pedal to the metal" agains the Suns, in an emphatic 68 point victory, set up by a brilliant first half.
The Swans booked their second consecutive NEAFL grand final, leading from the outset and controlling the match throughout.
Going into the match as hot favourites, the highly fancied minor premiers failed to disappoint, putting in their best first half of the season, leading by 78 points at the main change.
With the Suns coming off a good 39-point semi-final victory against NT Thunder, and backed by AFL listed talent, expectations were high that there would be a good contest on show.
Instead, the Swans treated their faithful fans to a delightful buffet of quick ball movement, strong tackling, and emphatic goal scoring, built on terrific forward half pressure and sizzling ball movement out of defence.
While the Suns pegged back the margin in second-half, adding much needed respectability to the scoreline, it wasn't until the Swans had extended the lead to 100 points late in the third quarter - 135 to 35 - before leading by 98 points at the final change.
Swans reserves coach Rhyce Shaw was delighted with the performance, and another chance to breakthrough their NEAFL premiership drought.
“It’s a reward for a really good year,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to going one step further than we did last year. It’s going to be a cracking game.”
The Swans kicked off the match with intent, moving the ball through from defence to attack with ease, hitting the scoreboard twice in the opening five minutes.
First year player Oliver Florent hit the scoreboard soon after, slotting a nice shot on the boundary, opening the flood gates.
Edwards kicked truly after pushing his first set shot wide, after great play by Talia and Rose to put him into space, while Toby Pink capitalised on terrific forward half pressure, forcing another Suns' turnover.
Cunningham was next in line, smashing through a goal from mid-air after an outstanding tap from Sam Naismith, playing his first game since returning from a hip injury he sustained against Hawthorn.
Ronke and Rose rounded out the scoring for the first quarter and the Swans held an emphatic 28-point lead.
Their pressure was already telling in the first quarter, and the Suns completely unravelled in the second and third quarters, offering little resistance as the Swans rode roughshod and smashed them on the scoreboard.
Talia, in his final year of his current contract at the Swans, was having a day out at centre-half forward, while Laidler - in the NEAFL team of the year on the half-back flank - was influential, repelling everything with ease along with Harry Marsh.
The Swans virtually had the ball on a string in the second quarter as they rampaged the hapless Suns defence, as Edwards, Fisher and Rose bagged two goals each, Murray and Talia chiming in with one apiece.
Edwards had a telling influence in the forward half, despite recording slightly more than a handful of disposals, he kicked 3.1, had a goal assist and another score assist, and his pressure was immense.
While Jordan Dawson wasn't quite at his influential best, he still managed to slot a terrific set shot goal from the boundary line.
The Suns found a way to hit the scoreboard in the third quarter, but it still wasn't enough to slow the Swans down, after going goalless for almost two quarters.
Robinson was dominating in the midfield, alongside Cunningham, with Foote improving as the match progressed.
Fisher, O'Riordan and Murray were influential at times, while Edwards and Rose kicked off the third quarter where they left the second.
They both kicked outstanding goals, with Edwards showing off his pace and balance to keep the ball in play, while Rose capitalised on the Swans dominance in midfield.
Sam Wicks punctuated the performance with an outstanding gather in the forward line to slam his first home and extend the margin to 100 points.
With the game well and truly won, the Swans eased off while the Suns set about adding a bit of respectability to a game that was one-sided as it gets.
Swans coach Rhyce Shaw was disappointed with the Swans drop-off and wanted the team to play out the four quarters.
"It’s never ideal (to fade away) but knowing we played our best half of footy we’ve played for the whole year, that really sits well with me,” he said.
“But the challenge is next week, in the Grand Final, you have to play four quarters, so that’s where we have room to improve, but that’s a good thing.
“I think if we can shut our opponents down, and then play our style of footy in attack, that’s the key to us winning the game.”
Dan Robinson was outstanding for the Swans finishing with 28 disposals and 7 clearances, alongside Harry Cunningham (24 disposals, seven clearances, 2 goals) and Jordan Foote (21 disposals, four clearances, four tackles).
Sam Naismith, playing his first game in five weeks was a class above in the ruck, finishing with 40 hit outs and a number of score assists.
James Rose (4.0, 23 disposals, 9 marks) and Shaun Edwards (4.1, 11 disposals, 5 tackles) were the best for the Swans in their dominant first half, while Jeremy Laidler (22 disposals) and Harry Marsh (22 disposals, 7 marks, 6 inside 50s) dominated in defence.
Alex Johnson suffered a shoulder knock late in the first quarter, but returned to the field after treatment, sat out after three quarter time.
Harry Marsh was seen with ice on his hamstring late in the match, but no word from the Swans suggests it was precautionary.
The Swans' have set-up an AFL/NEAFL double-header on Saturday, with the seniors playing at 4.20pm against the Bombers, and the reserves playing at 7.45pm against the Lions.
Sydney will be attempting to win their first NEAFL premiership after losing the '13, '14 and '16 deciders.
The reserves are set to retain Sam Naismith, or gain Kurt Tippett for the decider based on fitness for the seniors elimination final.
|Gold Coast Suns|
Goals: J. Rose 4, S. Edwards 4, O. Florent 2, S. Fisher 2, J. Dawson 2, H. Cunningham 2, S. Wicks, B. Ronke, D. Robinson, T. Pink, M. Talia
Best: D. Robinson, H. Cunningham, H. Marsh, S. Naismith, J. Rose, S. Fisher, S. Edwards
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