GOLD Coast has one foot in the finals after overpowering Greater Western Sydney by 31 points in tough conditions at Heritage Bank Stadium on Friday night.
The 7.6 (48) to 2.5 (17) win ensures the Suns will enter the final round of the home and away season, where they host Essendon in Mackay, inside the top eight.
A win in that match and they would host an elimination final.
The victory wasn’t all smooth sailing though with star midfielder Charlie Rowbottom taken off the field, likely as a precaution, in the final quarter after her left leg got caught awkwardly in a tackle.
In conditions more akin to Melbourne than south-east Queensland with cold, blustery winds and a wet surface underfoot, Gold Coast was relentless in its pursuit of the ball, overwhelming the Giants with work-rate and field position.
And it was Claudia Whitfort that stole the show, adding to her case for selection in the All-Australian squad with another 34 disposals and best on ground performance.
Her clean hands and breakaway speed from congestion was a highlight, with her fourth quarter goal from a forward 50 stoppage (one of her nine clearances) the perfection encapsulation of her impact.
Rowbottom (24 and a goal) worked through some close attention before her injury hiccup, while Alison Drennan (27) excelled in her 50th match.
Maddy Brancatisano played her best game in Suns colours, capping it with her first goal in the AFLW in her 41st match.
After scores were level at quarter-time, the Suns edged away through weight of possession.
They won the disposal count (279-186), clearances (35-23) and inside 50s (35-25) and were just a little too classy for a Giants outfit that tried hard but were often let down by their disposal forward of centre.
Following a dour first quarter where both teams took time adjusting to the conditions, things began to open up in the second.
SUNS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
With Whitfort and Drennan dominating inside the contest and away from it, the Suns generated enough chains of possession to give their forwards a chance.
Captain Tara Bohanna kicked the game’s first goal, while Rowbottom and Jamie Stanton profited from free kicks to give the home team a 13-point lead at the main break.
They extended to a 19-point lead at the final change and when Whitfort and Brancatisano kicked their clever goals in the fourth term, it was party time at Carrara.
Barwick’s horror head clash
Gold Coast was down a player inside the first 60 seconds after a horror head clash knocked out speedy defender Elise Barwick. With the ball in dispute on centre wing, Barwick and Giant Jess Doyle both came careering in to contest it at top speed. The head clash left the Sun prone on the ground for five minutes as she was attended to by half a dozen Gold Coast medicos before being stretchered off the ground.
It was a long time coming, but Izzy Huntington finally broke her duck for GWS with a second quarter goal. The young star, who has overcome two knee reconstructions, was playing her seventh game for the Giants after heading north from the Western Bulldogs. After missing with a hurried left foot snap in the first quarter, Huntington was awarded a free kick 30m from goal in the second and made no mistake with her set shot. She was mobbed by her teammates.
Gold Coast will look to claim a home elimination final when it ‘hosts’ Essendon at Mackay’s Great Barrier Reef Arena next Friday night at 6.45pm AEST. Greater Western Sydney finishes its season with a trip to Alberton Oval to face Port Adelaide next Saturday at 2.35pm ACST.
GOLD COAST 0.1 3.2 5.4 7.6 (48)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 0.1 1.1 2.3 2.5 (17)
Gold Coast: Bohanna 2, Rowbottom, Stanton, Dupuy, Whitfort, Brancatisano
Greater Western Sydney: Huntington, Beeson
Gold Coast: Whitfort, Drennan, Rowbottom, Bella, Brancatisano, Keaney
Greater Western Sydney: Goldsworthy, Beeson, Dallaway, Barr
Gold Coast: Barwick (concussion), Rowbottom (leg)
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Gold Coast: Nil
Greater Western Sydney: Georgia Garnett (knee) replaced in selected side by Caitlin Miller
Crowd: 1,045 at Heritage Bank Stadium