Gold Coast had to ponder what might have been after the club tied the game by 67 points against AFL North Melbourne basement dwellers at Marvel Stadium.
It was the Suns’ 10th win, tying the best of the 2014 season, but again failed to break into the top eight to make the Finals.
Gold Coast took the win from 16.18 (114) to 6.11 (47) with superior ball efficiency, control around the stops and a functional forward line led by veteran Alex Sexton with a record six goals in career.
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“Everyone is aiming to make the Finals and we’re missing a few wins,” Suns coach Stuart Dew said.
“We lost three (games) by less than 10 points, but when you think about the year, there has been real growth individually and collectively.
“The midfield group was incredible, led by Touk (Miller), Jarrod Witts and Noah Anderson.”
It was a disappointing collective assessment from the Kangaroos players for incoming senior manager Alastair Clarkson as he watched the game away from Docklands Stadium.
Clarkson would have at least been encouraged by several individual performances, such as No. 1 draft pick Jason Horne-Francis with his work in midfield until he was sent off with a severed header late in the third quarter. .
Backman Ben McKay kept key Suns forward Levi Casboult scoreless and Curtis Taylor had 25 possessions and a goal while blunting the influence of Suns co-captain Miller, a medal favorite Brownlow, at 25 manageable eliminations.
Roos caretaker manager Leigh Adams said he was not surprised by the drop in intensity from his players, particularly in the second half of his sixth game in charge of the senior team.
“It was a really frustrating day. I thought over the six weeks we will have a downturn, emotionally and mentally, and it happened today,” he said.
“It (the coaching change) ended up taking its toll, but I was really proud of the effort the boys made over the last six weeks.”
Adams said the Kangaroos can improve quickly, given how young and inexperienced the senior roster is.
And he illustrated that with the impressive debut of Joshua Goater who had 21 possessions and netted the Roos’ opening goal with a daring pass down the center lane from half-back.
North Melbourne only really threatened once with goals from Hugh Greenwood and Luke Davies-Uniacke early in the third quarter.
But the Suns answered the challenge with five unanswered goals from Sexton (two), Miller, Malcolm Rosas and Mabior Chol to put the contest out of reach.
The Suns added seven goals after saves, an indication of the monopoly on the ball that Clarkson would have noted to rectify for the 2023 season.
The Queenslanders had goals on the board from Noah Anderson and Malcolm Rosas before several Kangaroos touched the ball.
And late goals from Alex Davies and Sexton in the first quarter created an early scoreboard buffer that was all too easily defended after half-time.
© APA 2022