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Five talking points: Gold Coast v Essendon

Highlights: Gold Coast v Essendon The Suns and Bombers clash in round 21
 GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 22: Jack Martin of the Suns spoils the ball during the 2015 AFL round 21 match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Essendon Bombers at Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast, Australia on August 22, 2015. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)
Jack Martin shows his extraordinary leap

1. Heads held high to start post-Hird era
The Bombers can hold their heads up after the end of another tumultuous week. The first match of the post James Hird-era wasn't a pretty one, but despite a litany of turnovers from both teams, they played with freedom that would put a smile on interim coach Matthew Egan's face. Jake Carlisle's difficult snap on the siren could have pinched a late victory, but despite the miss, the Bombers took a huge step forward. Unlike recent matches, they played with spirit, and after copping an 87-point hiding from the Western Bulldogs and 112-point flogging from Adelaide in the past three weeks, this was a marked improvement.

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2. Gold Coast have still got some run
Coach Rodney Eade expressed his concern on match-eve that his injury-depleted Suns might be running out of puff at the back-end of a long season. They proved him wrong. Against Richmond last week, they coughed up 14 goals to three after half-time, but it was a completely different story against the Bombers. There were plenty of mistakes – from both teams – but the Suns ran until they dropped and deserved to hang on. For the fifth week in succession Aaron Hall (31 disposals) bettered his previous career-high, while youngsters Kade Kolodjashnij and Jesse Lonergan continued to shine in prominent roles. The Suns will now almost certainly avoid the wooden spoon.

3. Scary sight for Sam fans
Just when the Suns thought their injury crisis couldn't get any worse, it did. Athletic forward Sam Day was involved in a scary incident late in the third quarter when he was carted off the ground wearing a neck brace. He copped an accidental hip from Bomber Mark Baguley and lay prone on the Metricon Stadium turf for six minutes as medicos meticulously put his neck in a brace and escorted him off on a medivac. Day was rushed to hospital for scans.

 

4. McKernan may be the man
Shaun McKernan might not be the Bombers' long-term solution in the ruck, but he made a hell of a fist of it against the Suns. Giving away 9cm to Zac Smith, the former Crow was arguably the best man on the ground. Given a chance with Tom Bellchambers (foot) injured, the 24-year-old was physical around the stoppages, athletic around the ground and finished with 24 disposals, 26 hitouts and three goals. In Smith, McKernan outplayed an opponent who was desperate after being given a lifeline by Eade with regular ruck Tom Nicholls (knee) sidelined.

 

5. So close to a big night for Jumping Jack
Every time Jack Martin goes near the ball, you're on the edge of your seat, and he did plenty of it against the Bombers. The exciting West Australian finished with 3.3 from his 16 disposals and nine marks, but was a whisker off a huge night. He missed three sets shots in the final term that almost came back to bite the Suns, but the performance was his most exciting of the season. After an injury-interrupted first two years in the game, everyone has their fingers crossed the 20-year-old gets a long run with disruption.

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