Clockwise from left: Matt Rowell, Dayne Zorko and Touk Miller, Joe Daniher, Charlie Cameron. Pictures: AFL Photos

ASIDE from a few sporadic upsets and the ongoing Dayne Zorko-Touk Miller feud, the QClash between Brisbane and Gold Coast has battled to reach any consistent heights over its 26-match history.

This Sunday night promises to be a little different, though.

The Suns pumped their more fancied rivals late in 2023 and with Damien Hardwick on board and a Lions team battling to find its best form, it feels like there's some genuine stakes for a round eight clash.

Can the Suns inflict a fourth consecutive loss for Brisbane at the Gabba in 2024? That seemed inconceivable at the start of the season, and although the hosts should start favourites, Gold Coast has some firepower to worry the Lions.

Leaving Miller and Zorko aside, here's a look at some of the key match-ups that will determine whether Brisbane puts its season back on course, or whether the Suns announce themselves as genuine finals contenders. 

Harris Andrews v Ben King

Perhaps this will be a head-to-head, perhaps not, with Jack Payne likely to take King if the Gold Coast spearhead plays out of the goalsquare. Last year King made it his priority to play defensively on Andrews, helping to draw him to the ball as he attempted to break a lean run of matches. King kicked five goals in Gold Coast's upset victory, and whether it's a direct match-up or not, whichever of these two pivotal players has a bigger influence will have a big say on the outcome of the game.


Matt Rowell v Josh Dunkley

Arguably the best inside midfielder in the competition in 2024 up against Brisbane's best defensive mid. Last year Dunkley went head-to-head with Rowell at the Gabba, keeping him to 18 disposals and more importantly just three clearances. Rowell is the engine that makes Gold Coast's midfield go, winning more clearances – including more out of the centre – than any player in the AFL. Dunkley has the defensive mindset and physicality to match the former No.1 draft pick, but can he do it for an entire match?

Josh Dunkley in action during the R10 match between Brisbane and Gold Coast at the Gabba on May 20, 2023. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Sam Collins v Joe Daniher

There could hardly be a more contrasting duo lining up against each other on Sunday. Daniher, criticised this week for his lack of intensity, is easily Brisbane's most dangerous tall forward with his ability in the air and on the ground. For his relaxed demeanour, he was still Brisbane's best player in the Grand Final and is capable of taking the game away in a quarter. Collins is giving up 7cm in height, but that won't matter one bit to the Suns vice-captain, who is a snarly, fierce competitor who hates watching his opponent get a kick, let alone a goal.

Joe Daniher and Sam Collins go toe to toe during the R10 match between Brisbane and Gold Coast at the Gabba on May 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Ben Ainsworth v Linc McCarthy

This pair play identical roles for their teams – the high half-forward who runs themselves ragged, often for little reward. Both are power athletes, both mark the ball well overhead, both have penetrating right foot kicks, and both have a major role in connecting the midfield to the forward line. McCarthy has been Brisbane's best forward this season, averaging 14 disposals, six score involvements and kicking eight goals, while Ainsworth is averaging 15, five and kicked six goals.

Lincoln McCarthy celebrates a goal during the R6 match between Brisbane and Geelong at the Gabba on April 20, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Who takes Charlie Cameron?

There's no obvious match-up here for the Suns – which is scary. Yes, teams default to their 'team defence' line when asked, but from centre bounces, forward 50 stoppages and other times throughout the match, someone has to take responsibility for the two-time All-Australian. Traditionally it has been Sean Lemmens, who is currently serving a VFL suspension, while Cameron ran rings around Bodhi Uwland – who was dropped last week - in the pre-season. Perhaps Wil Powell get the nod, but whoever it is, the struggling Cameron goes in knowing he's kicked 29 goals from 10 QClash contests.

Charlie Cameron in action during match simulation between Brisbane and Gold Coast at Brighton Homes Arena on February 22, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos