Home » Sun-sational! Cats plummet to 30-yr worst as GC’s top-end thumping stuns AFL: 3-2-1

Sun-sational! Cats plummet to 30-yr worst as GC’s top-end thumping stuns AFL: 3-2-1

Gold Coast steamrolled Geelong in Darwin on Thursday night, claiming its sixth win of the season in a staggering 26.8 (164) to 15.10 (100) victory.

The Cats, who have now dropped three consecutive matches and could fall as low as seventh by the end of Round 10, conceded their biggest score since Round 1, 1994.

The Suns’ holistic 64-point belting was their biggest-ever over Geelong, easily eclipsing their previous biggest winning margin of 40 points in 2014.

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Suns trade whispers | 01:24

It was the second-fastest that Gold Coast had reached 100 points in a game, while its 19.7 (121) was the club’s biggest three-quarter-time scoreline in its history.

Bailey Humphrey slammed home five goals and had eight score involvements on the night, Ben King and Jack Lukosius dobbed four each, while Sam Day scored three of his own on return.

Thursday’s shellacking represented Chris Scott’s highest ever score conceded in his tenure in charge of the Cats.

Tyson Stengle (three goals), Gryan Miers, Shannon Neale and Ollie Henry (all two each) were Geelong’s multiple goalkickers.

Since the start of the 2021 season, no other side has played more games and won more times at TIO Stadium than the Suns (6-0). Thursday night represented Geelong’s first-ever home-and-away match in Darwin.

The 3-2-1 …

3. ‘A 1980S SCORELINE’: RECORDS SMASHED AS ‘AVERAGE’ CATS EXPOSED IN 30-YEAR FIRST

Most predicted a dour, low-scoring affair that the Cats would ultimately be too strong and hardened for the Suns.

Instead, Gold Coast produced its best and most breathtaking performance under coach Damien Hardwick yet – and made top-four fancies Geelong look average in a record-breaking performance.

The Suns on Thursday night sent a significant statement to the competition, thumping the Cats by 64 points to register their second consecutive win and sixth straight victory at TIO Stadium.

The final score was 26.8 (164) to 15.10 (100). As the AFL Record’s Ashley Browne wrote on X: “This is a 1980s score line.”

It was the Suns’ biggest ever win over Geelong, while their final score was the highest in their history, the highest ever by any team at the Darwin venue and the highest score by any team so far in 2024.

In fact the Suns became the first AFL team since Melbourne in 1994 to kick such a high score against Geelong.

And it was easily the highest score ever conceded by the Cats in the Chris Scott era, usurping Sydney’s 22.16 (148) in Round 11, 2014.

Led by brutal on-ball quartet Noah Anderson, Sam Flanders, Touk Miller and Matt Rowell, the Suns were tougher at the coalface and more efficient coming out of stoppage.

“All aspects of the Gold Coast game is working,” dual All-Australian Leigh Montagna told Fox Footy.

“Behind the ball with Mac Andrew and Sam Collins doing as they please and the forwards are getting the job done and kicking goals on Tom Stewart.

“The class gap has been on display between the two midfields … and it’s not just the class. It’s the effort and desire. Their pressure factor has been enormous, their want and their will – compared to the opposition – has stood out too.

“They are making TIO Stadium an absolute fortress and a nightmare for the opposition.”

Dual premiership Kangaroo David King added: “What they’ve been able to do in the midfield has exposed their (the Cats’) lack of dare and scoring power. They’ve been treated as if they can’t compete with Anderson and Rowell.”

For the Cats, it was their biggest loss since Max Gawn went bonkers in the 2021 preliminary final and just their second loss by 50-plus points in six-and-a-half seasons.

They were without an array of their best 22 players, namely Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Sam De Koning. But the lack of depth was seriously exposed.

“Geelong simply haven’t handled the conditions at all, whereas the Suns are handling the ball cleanly, they’re taking marks. I can’t recall a Geelong player actually taking a mark in his hands,” Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall told Fox Footy.

“For a side that won seven in a row to start the season, they’re playing a completely different brand of football to what we’ve seen the last three weeks.”

King added: “The Cats’ gameplan is to counter-punch out of the back-half. They haven’t scored from intercept out of the back-half at all (to half-time) … which is unheard of for Geelong.

“They’ve made Geelong’s back six look average tonight.”

The loss could be costly from a ladder perspective too. Should Essendon, Carlton, GWS, Port Adelaide and Melbourne all win this weekend, and the Giants and Port Adelaide, the Cats could finish the round as low as seventh … with games to come against the Giants, Blues, Swans and Bombers over the next six rounds.

It’s a significant fall for the Cats, who were the league’s only undefeated side three weeks ago.

As for the Suns, their finals hopes have taken a big boost.

2. ‘DARWIN SPECIALIST’ FURTHER EXPOSES COACH’S CLANGER

As commentator Luke Darcy said on Thursday night, Jack Lukosius is turning into a “Darwin specialist” for the Suns.

The former No.2 draft pick surely put a full stop on the key defensive experiment – orchestrated by coach Damien Hardwick – with a blistering first-half performance against the Cats.

With young gun Jed Walter ‘managed’ out of the team and fellow top-10 pick Ben King well held in the first half, Lukosius fired early, kicking the first two goals of the game before adding another before quarter-time. He could’ve had a fourth if he’d held onto an uncontested mark opportunity near the goalsquare.

And when the Suns made an ominous seven-goal statement in the second, Lukosius was in the thick of the action, directly setting up goals to teammates Ben Ainsworth and Sam Day with shrewd kicks.

Of Lukosius’ first 10 disposals, eight led to Suns scores.

“He’s been involved in everything and just about all the scoring,” Dunstall said.

“It’s another example of someone who can hold the ball cleanly in their hands, despite the conditions. We know he’s a quality finisher.

“He looks a different player – and this is the frustration of Jack Lukosius. He could be anything, but I want to see this from him every week because he has such an impact on the game. He’s skilful, he’s clean by hand, he’s a beautiful kick of the footy – you just want to see it more often.”

Drafted as a forward – and coming off a 39-goal season for the Suns in 2023 – Lukosius spent the majority of the first eight weeks of 2024 either behind the ball or on a wing.

Lukosius was then moved into attack for the second half of the Round 8 Q-Clash loss against Brisbane – and did enough to convince his coach that’s the area of the ground he plays his best footy in.

“You know the Fonz … he couldn’t say the word ‘wrong’,’” Hardwick told reporters last week,

“From my point of view, we tried him back, he went forward and looked really dynamic, looked a class above, so he’ll play forward this week.

“Hopefully it’s a long-term one and the coach doesn’t get his head on again and put him down back.”

Despite being thrown around the field a bit at the start of the year – which led to some trade whispers – the Suns have reassured Lukosius he has a long-term future at this football club.

Speaking to Fox Footy’s Jon Ralph pre-game on Thursday, Suns football boss Wayne Campbell said of Lukosius: “He’s a really good person, really invested. The coach likes him and we can see that talent. We just have to put him in the right spot.”

Lukosius on Thursday showed just how dynamic he can be.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised by Lukosius’ performance, considering he kicked five goals against Geelong the last time he played them in Round 3 last year, plus he kicked 10 goals from his two games at TIO Stadium – against the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide – 12 months ago.

“When his career is finished, he should play in the (NTFL) up there. He could kick 100 for the Buffaloes,” King said cheekily.

1. EXCHANGING GIFTS… PRE-GAME AND IN-GAME

Gold Coast and Geelong at the start of Sir Doug Nicholls Round exchanged gifts before the coin toss.

But the giving didn’t stop there, with both teams gifting each other early goals in the opening quarter.

Young Cats ruck Toby Conway took a terrific intercept mark in the first minute of the match before committing the cardinal sin in defence, kicking dangerously across the face of goal and turning the ball over to Jack Lukosius, who marked in the goalsquare and strolled in for an easy goal.

But Mac Andrew wasn’t to be ‘outdone’ at the opposite end of the field.

The emerging Suns star plucked his own intercept mark inside defensive 50. But Andrew’s kick back into the corridor of back arc was a shocker, allowing Cat Gary Rohan to spoil the ball to ground and inviting Geelong to force a turnover through pressure, which led to a Gryan Miers snap goal.

Minutes later, the Suns gave away another goal after a bizarre Brayden Fiorini turnover led to a Zach Tuohy goal.

But it mattered little for Gold Coast.

In fact, if it wasn’t for three Suns clangers – they gave away a 50m penalty in the second term that led to a Geelong goal – in the first half, Gold Coast could’ve led by a lot more at half-time.

GOLD COAST SUNS vs. GEELONG — AS IT HAPPENED

The Cats copped a major late blow with Sam De Koning (hamstring tightness) replaced by Zach Tuohy.

Jhye Clark (Cats) and Alex Davies (Suns) were named the subs.

A musical Welcome to Country set the scene at TIO Stadium before the sides entered battle.

A shocking error deep in defence by recalled ruckman Toby Conway gifted Jack Lukosius the first goal of the game! He’ll want that moment back.

Tyson Stengle responded with a kick off the ground that dribbled all the way through for a goal! One goal apiece a few minutes in.

In a similar vein to Conway’s mistake, the Suns got caught out deep in their defence, leading to a snapping goal by Gryan Miers. Zach Tuohy added another after yet another back-half turnover by Gold Coast.

Jack Lukosius snapped his third goal of the first quarter after taking a nice grab in the pocket.

“He is on fire here,” Seven caller Luke Darcy said of Lukosius, who has five kicks, three marks, three goals and two inside-50s.

The Cats reduced their deficit to two points after inclusion Shannon Neale snapped home a nice bending major. 4.2 to 4.0 with five minutes still left in this opening term. An Ollie Henry set-shot goal cemented a three-point Cats lead at quarter-time.

Following the quarter-time break, Tom Stewart didn’t re-enter the field of play. No confirmation of an injury at present, but he is in the Geelong rooms.

A Ben Ainsworth snap opened the second-quarter scoring in Darwin, pushing Gold Coast back in front — it’s already the fourth lead change of the game.

Stewart has returned to the field of play, and Cats fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

A 50-metre penalty conceded by the Suns led directly to a Tanner Bruhn set shot goal. Another lead change, and it’s Geelong by three points early in the second term.

A sizzling Bailey Humphrey snap after he applied suffocating defensive pressure led to the game’s sixth lead change. A David Swallow goal made it an 11-point Gold Coast lead — the biggest advantage for either side tonight.

Simply, the Cats haven’t been able to adjust to the conditions in the same way the Suns have, dropping marks in a host of squandered opportunities.

Sam Day kicked his second goal to make it a 23-point lead for the Suns. Definite danger signs now for Geelong.

A three-player collision between two Suns and a Cat stopped play momentarily.

The goals kept coming for the Suns through Joel Jeffrey and Ben Long, who has two in the quarter alone. By the end of the quarter, it was seven Gold Coast goals to Geelong’s one.

“It was a dominant quarter from the Suns,” Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall told Fox Footy at half-time. “Geelong haven’t handled the conditions well at all.”

“They haven’t, and the conditions maybe are a factor in this as well, but the Cats’ game plan is to counter-punch out of the back half, (but) they haven’t scored from intercept out of the defensive half at all,” Fox Footy analyst David King said.

“Zero for a half of football, which is unheard of for the Geelong Football Club.”

At the halfway point, the Suns are +15 in inside-50s, +53 in disposals, +10 per cent disposal efficiency, +35 in marks and +55 in uncontested possessions.

“Unless something drastic happens, it looks like a runaway win for the Suns,” Dunstall added.

Mac Andrew (lower leg) was subbed out at half-time.

The Suns picked up right where they left off to start the second half, with Bailey Humprey saluting early.

Tyson Stengle broke Gold Coast’s run of seven unanswered goals with a long-range strike to drag the margin back to 33 points. However, it was quickly cancelled out by a Ben King goal from close range that cam gifted following a turnover.

Sam Day kicked his third goal of the evening to extend the margin to 46 points. Lukosius (three majors), Humphrey (two) and Long (two) are Gold Coast’s other multiple goalkickers to this point.

“The Gold Coast Suns are taking full toll,” Seven’s Alistair Nicholson said as David Swallow booted his second of the evening.

Gold Coast’s biggest win over Geelong came in 2014 when they won by 40 points. Tonight’s effort is certain to eclipse that.

It’s back-to-back seven-goal quarters (eight in the third) for Damien Hardwick’s Suns, who take a 66-point lead into the final change.

19.7 (121) is Gold Coast’s highest-ever three-quarter-time scoreline, eclipsing its previous record of 17.10 (112).

Geelong’s Max Holmes opened the fourth-quarter scoring before Jack Lukosius answered with his fourth goal of the night. 66-point difference. Jhye Clark and Ben King then traded goals.

Noah Anderson’s 34th disposal was a particularly impressive one, as he launched a long-range snap to extend Gold Coast’s commanding lead to 72 points.

Anderson’s second goal pushed Gold Coast past 150 points for the first time in their history.

The Suns’ final winning margin was 64 points.

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