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Suns hold off Cats' charge in Townsville

Match highlights: Suns v Cats Gold Coast and Geelong head to Townsville in the NAB Challenge
Ex-Swan Nick Malceski settled well into his new role at Gold Coast - ${keywords}
Ex-Swan Nick Malceski settled well into his new role at Gold Coast

THE RODNEY Eade era has started in style for Gold Coast as the Suns edged out Geelong by eight points in a thrilling NAB Challenge match in Townsville.

Missing half of their best team, the Suns held off a second-half comeback by the Cats, winning 0.10.19 (79) to 1.9.8 (71).

Townsville product Josh Hall whipped the 4431 spectators into a frenzy, kicking the go-ahead goal late in the fourth quarter to give Eade a victory in his first match in charge.

Minutes later, small forward Brandon Matera kicked a freakish goal off his left foot to put the match beyond doubt.

Matera soccered the ball from a near impossible angle deep in the left forward pocket to split the sticks to again have the crowd on its feet.

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It may be only pre-season but this was a hot contest, matched only by the 32 degree heat, and told us a bit about both teams ahead of the premiership season.

Missing a glut of talent including captain Gary Ablett, Dion Prestia, Jaeger O'Meara, Steven May, Jack Martin, Rory Thompson and Charlie Dixon, the Suns showed they have enough depth to improve this year.

Ruckman Zac Smith was his team's best player, sending a strong message that he wants the No1 role ahead of Tom Nicholls this season.

Stand-in skipper Michael Rischitelli was brilliant leading his young team, racking up 21 disposals, while Hawthorn recruit Mitch Hallahan was tireless in his Suns debut. 

He often got his hands on the ball around stoppages, finishing with 25 disposals and eight clearances, and looks an ideal foil for his more flashy teammates.

For a near full strength Cats – missing Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson - it was largely their older heads that shone.

Recruit Mitch Clark, playing his first game since round four, 2013, showed plenty of promise and threatened to steal the game in the final term. 

The ex-Demon struggled to get near the ball in the first quarter but as the match wore on, he impressed.

He laid off a goal for Cory Gregson, and then with his team trailing, kicked two quick goals to momentarily give the Cats the lead midway through the fourth.

Cats excited by Clark

Veterans Jimmy Bartel (26 touches) and Harry Taylor (22) were among Geelong's best, while Steven Motlop (22) and Matthew Stokes (19) injected some much-needed pace.

There was some promising signs from draftees Nakia Cockatoo, Gregson and second-year player Darcy Lang, who kicked two goals.

After two first-quarter goals, Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins looked in second gear and was quiet the rest of the way.

Danny Stanley's second-quarter screamer on centre wing was another highlight for the Suns.

Gold Coast ruckman Zac Smith wins a hit-out during Sunday's contest. Picture: AFL Media

WHAT WE LEARNED

Gold Coast: Zac Smith showed he wants that No.1 ruck mantle. With Tom Nicholls still on the way back from injury, Smith looked more aggressive than he has at any stage of his career. The 25-year-old not only had 28 hit-outs, but mopped up with 13 disposals and put his head over the ball at every opportunity. Hawthorn recruit Mitch Hallahan looks a perfect midfield foil for his fleet-footed teammates. 

Geelong: The Cats have a lot of work to do before round one. Against a depleted Suns midfield, they struggled for most of the day at the stoppages. While the return of Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson will undoubtedly help, the two stars will need some hassistancelp. Versatile Mark Blicavs looked good in defence, while a rusty Mitch Clark showed enough to believe he will be a good foil for Tom Hawkins in the forward 50.

NEW FACES

Gold Coast: Mitch Hallahan was like a duck to water in his first game since switching from Hawthorn. The hard-nut midfielder had 25 touches and looked dangerous at stoppages with his eight clearances. Star Swans signing Nick Malceski was a bit quieter at half-back, but still looked right at home, marshaling the defensive unit. Draftee Jarrod Garlett was lively up forward, kicking two goals, including a special effort from the right boundary line. Adam Saad showed great dash, Touk Miller was busy, Keegan Brooksby competitive in the ruck, while defender Henry Schade did a fine job on Tom Hawkins for much of the day.

Geelong: Prized recruit Mitch Clark worked into the game after a difficult start. He got into good positions but misjudged a number of marks, finishing with two late goals from his nine disposals. The former Demon looked better as the match wore on, with a deft pickup and handpass leading directly to a goal for draftee Cory Gregson, who impressed with his pace. Number 10 draft pick Nakia Cockatoo was the best of Geelong's youngsters on debut, finding 10 disposals, while Dean Gore looks a readymade midfielder with his strong build and willingness to compete. Irishman Padraig Lucey struggled in the heat, while defender Jake Kolodjashnij and rookie Michael Luxford showed glimpses without getting overly involved.

GOLD COAST     0.3.3     0.5.9     0.6.16      0.10.19 (79)

GEELONG           0.3.2      0.3.3      0.6.6       1.9.8 (71) 

SUPERGOALS

Gold Coast: Nil

Geelong: Motlop

GOALS

Gold Coast: Garlett 2, Rischitelli 2, Matera, Hall, Miller, Kolodjashnij, Smith, Lynch

Geelong: Clark 2, Hawkins 2, Lang 2, Guthrie, Gregson, Stokes

BEST 

Gold Coast: Rischitelli, Hallahan, Smith, Bennell, Saad

Geelong: Stokes, Bartel, Taylor, Motlop, Kelly

INJURIES

Gold Coast: Henry Schade (ankle)

Geelong: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Nicholls, Ryan, Hosking, Wallace

Official crowd: 4431 at Townsville Football Ground

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs