Gary Ablett celebrates Gold Coast's last-gasp NAB Challenge victory against Essendon
A RUSHED behind on the siren has helped Gold Coast reverse a 31-point deficit to beat Essendon by one point in Monday night's NAB Challenge match at Metricon Stadium.WATCH THE FULL MATCH REPLAY HERE
With scores level and the clock winding down, Suns captain Gary Ablett took a shot from outside 50m on the right-hand boundary line. The ball was spoiled through as the siren sounded, giving the Suns a 1.11.15 (90) to 0.13.11 (89) victory.
While the Bombers lost both the match and defender Alex Browne to a knee injury
, which left him in a leg brace and on crutches, they solved a forward-line question with an impressive display by teenager Joe Daniher.
With just five senior games to his name, Daniher sealed a spot in coach Mark Thompson's plans for 2014 with a polished display in greasy conditions.
The 19-year-old forward could have easily had four first-half goals had he kicked straight, but had to settle for two in the humid and greasy conditions.
The Bombers led by 31 early in the third quarter but ran out of legs as the Suns stormed home, kicking nine goals to five after the main break.
Essendon's David Zaharakis was marvellous throughout, finishing with 43 disposals.
Daniher might not have got the big stats but his exciting display in the air and on the ground during the first two quarters was the highlight of the night for the Bombers.
He started strongly in the first term with a goal following a strong overhead mark that Suns defender Steven May had little chance of spoiling.
He followed up later in the quarter with a nice pickup and turn on to his left foot to snap his second.
He then missed a grubbered attempt from 20m and completely sprayed a set shot out on the full early in the second quarter as he gave May, and then Matthew Warnock, all sorts of headaches.
Jake Carlisle (three goals), Ben Howlett (three), Kyle Hardingham (two) also contributed on the scoreboard.
The Suns had a number of solid contributors with Ablett (31 disposals) again leading the way.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Gold Coast: The Suns are building some genuine depth through the middle of the ground. With Dion Prestia (calf) and Harley Bennell (calf) both sidelined and captain Gary Ablett having a 'quiet' 31 disposals, Gold Coast were brilliant in the midfield. Michael Rischitelli (22 touches) is the fittest he's been for three years, while David Swallow (23) was also terrific, and Jaeger O'Meara, Jack Martin, Matt Shaw and Jarrod Harbrow will also spend considerable time in the engine room.
Essendon: The Bombers can settle on teenager Joe Daniher and former key defender Jake Carlisle as their key forwards after excellent showings against the Suns. Following the off-season departures of Stewart Crameri (Western Bulldogs) and Scott Gumbleton (Fremantle), coach Mark Thompson declared he would swing Carlisle forward in 2014 and move Michael Hurley to defence. While Carlisle impressed with his three goals – and Hurley did a strong job on Tom Lynch in the back half - Daniher was the most dangerous player on the ground in the first half and looks ready to contribute at AFL level in just his second season.
Gold Coast: He's not new to the club, but he'll be new to senior footy this year and Jack Martin fitted in to the Suns like an old pro. He had 14 disposals and showed some touches of class. And while he doesn't have Martin's profile, No.27 draft pick Sean Lemmens was just as exciting for Suns supporters, having 10 first-half disposals until he copped a knock on the AC (shoulder) joint that saw him subbed off.
Essendon: Playing off half-back, Zach Merrett was one of the Bombers' best. The brother of Jackson and Essendon's first draft pick (No.26 overall), Merrett was composed and classy with his 17 disposals. Ruck/forward Fraser Thurlow also showed plenty of promise. The 199cm Queenslander was excellent at stoppages and finished with 11 touches and 15 hit-outs, while former Giant Kurt Aylett came on after half-time and was quiet with three disposals.
GOLD COAST 0.3.4 0.3.7 1.7.11 1.11.15 (90)
ESSENDON 0.4.0 0.8.2 0.11.5 0.13.11 (89)
Gold Coast: Ablett
Gold Coast: Day 2, J.Hall 2, Boston 2, Shaw 2, Matera, Swallow, Lynch
Essendon: Carlisle 3, Howlett 3, Daniher 2, Hardingham 2, Ryder, Kavanagh, Steinberg
Gold Coast: Swallow, Rischitelli, Ablett, Harbrow, Boston, Day
Essendon: Zaharakis, Hurley, Z.Merrett, Stanton, Hibberd, Daniher
Gold Coast: Lemmens (shoulder)
Essendon: Browne (knee)
Gold Coast: Day replaced Lemmens at half-time; Nicholls replaced Gorringe at half-time.
Essendon: O'Brien replaced Browne in the second quarter; Aylett replaced Colyer at half-time.
Umpires: Ryan, Kamolins, Jeffrey
Official crowd: 6083 at Metricon Stadium
Jake Carlisle attempts to burst clear of Clay Cameron's tackle. Picture: AFL Media