Damien Hardwick during Gold Coast's match against the Western Bulldogs in R2, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

GOLD Coast coach Damien Hardwick says he would have liked the umpires to break up scrimmages quicker in the Suns' loss to the Western Bulldogs to minimise the risk of dangerous tackles.

Two hard-nosed midfields - spiced up by bulls Tom Liberatore and Matt Rowell going head-to-head - faced off at Ballarat's Mars Stadium on Sunday, with plenty of tough contested ball situations.

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Hardwick lamented his midfielders being taught "a lesson" around scrimmages by the Bulldogs' experienced on-ball brigade in their 18.7 (115) to 10.7 (67) defeat, losing clearances 42-31 and tackles 65-55.

But the Suns mentor also felt the umpires could have broken up some contested ball situations earlier.

"I thought the umpires, to be perfectly honest, held their whistle a little bit too long," Hardwick said.


"There was a couple of really dangerous situations there where we could have called it, I think, just to nullify the thing.

"Just ball it up. Because I think it ends up in a sling tackle and I think we've just got to be careful. These are the situations we're trying to avoid.

"I reckon we probably had times where the umpire could have blown it and the same for the Bulldogs.

"It's like you're just sort of right on the edge there - you've just got to, I reckon, nip them in the bud a little bit quicker."


Gold Coast will await news on whether midfielder Bailey Humphrey (shoulder) and co-captain Jarrod Witts (groin) will be available after their early-season bye.

Young gun Humphrey was a late withdrawal after what Hardwick described as a "training accident".

Hardwick indicated both players could miss one to three weeks, depending on how they healed.

When asked whether the bye came at a good time after their first defeat, Hardwick said: "Oh, yes and no.

"It's one of those ones. After a loss like that, I reckon you want to get back on the horse and keep playing.

"But we'll take stock, we'll train a couple of things. We got a couple of injuries in the development league as well. So it's disappointing.

"So we might get some players back next week, but we're not quite sure."