By BRYCE HEATON

 

NEAFL ROUND 4

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Gold Coast Suns (3rd) v Brisbane Lions (2nd), Metricon Stadium, 12.55pm
*Live Champion Data statistics available on the NEAFL app

SUMMARY

This ‘2Clash’ shapes as a pivotal early season stocktake for both the Lions and Suns, not just for the NEAFL sides, but for the entire lists of the respective clubs. Rarely have the Lions and Suns been able to battle out NEAFL matches at full strength, resulting in a raft of one-sided contests with an average margin of 58 points in the past three seasons, with the win-loss ledger sitting evenly at 5-5.

This match is unlikely to blow out that far, and is a chance for both sides to go toe-to-toe with an almost full complement of listed players. The undefeated Lions will be bolstered by the return of Tom Bell and Rohan Bewick from the seniors, Rhys Mathieson from injury and Cian Hanley from compassionate leave, whilst the Suns regain Jack Scrimshaw, Matt Shaw and a smorgasbord of talented Academy youngsters hell-bent on landing a spot on the Suns list at the 2017 drafts.

This weekend may contain the 2016 NEAFL Grand Final rematch, but this game could well be match of the round.

RECENT ENCOUNTERS

Round 15, 2016: Gold Coast Suns 14.15 (99) def. Brisbane Lions 15.7 (97) at Metricon Stadium.
Round 9, 2016: Brisbane Lions 22.18 (150) def. Gold Coast Suns 5.8 (38) at the Gabba.
Round 3, 2016: Gold Coast Suns 21.12 (138) def. Brisbane Lions 3.12 (30) at Yeronga.

TALKING POINTS

1. Whilst most eyes will be on the expanse of young midfield and forward talent hoarded by both sides, the battle of two of the best big man brigades in the NEAFL will also be a cracker. Cameron Loersch (averaging 12 disposals and 2 goals a game), Keegan Brooksby (15 disposals, 2 goals, 18 hitouts) and Tom Nicholls (11 disposals, 1 goal, 16 hitouts) for the Suns will be joined by Brayden Crossley, who at just 17 stands at 198cm and 100kg and has already drawn comparisons to Shane Mumford due to his brutal physicality. Meanwhile the Lions have found a perfect foil for developing ruck Archie Smith in Oscar McInerney, the mature age recruit palming off 31 hitouts and booting 4 goals in three games.

2. This match is a huge litmus test for the Suns, who have been solid so far this season without playing a full four quarters of their best footy. They burst out of the blocks against the GIANTS in Round 1 only to fade badly, whereas the following matches against Redland and Aspley they took a while to get going. A win here will give them a massive confidence boost heading into next week’s clash against current ladder leaders Sydney University.

ROOKIE WATCH

Sam Copland has slotted five goals in the first three matches, including three in the Lions’ drought-breaking win in Darwin against the Thunder. Having the firepower of Freeman, Hammelmann, Schache and Close rotating through the forward 50 throughout the year has allowed the 18-year-old to fly under the radar, making solid contributions and playing every match this season. Whilst he might have slipped the mind of some defenders, the flowing golden locks of the 190cm Toowoomba junior are hard to miss from the stands.

STATS THAT MATTER

If there were a NEAFL fantasy competition, Ben Keays would almost certainly be a lock for your starting side (when not playing in the AFL). He’s averaging 35 disposals since returning to the NEAFL this season, and 30 disposals in NEAFL matches since being drafted overall.

PREDICTION

Brisbane by 15 points.

 

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