1. Macrae responds in style
Last weekend, Bulldogs midfielder Jack Macrae copped two whacks from his coach. The first came when Macrae was made the Dogs' sub for their game against Geelong, and the second came in Brendan McCartney's press conference after the loss to the Cats, when McCartney said, "Jack has been letting us down in some areas and he is well aware of those areas." But Macrae responded in tremendous fashion against Gold Coast. The 20-year-old had 15 disposals in the first half, then amassed an extraordinary 17 in the third quarter. He bobbed up with another 11 touches and two great goals in the last term, as the Dogs scored an upset victory. Macrae finished with game with 43 disposals and would surely have received three Brownlow Medal votes from the umpires as well.
2. Out of legs out of the finals?
There were two big questions surrounding the Suns in the lead-up to the game. Could they cover the loss of Gary Ablett? And would they have the energy to get over the Bulldogs after having no interchange bench for the last quarter of their win over Collingwood the week before? The answer to both was a resounding "no". Emerging midfielder Jaeger O'Meara did his best to make up for the absence of Ablett, who was not at the game as he was still recovering from his season-ending shoulder surgery. But O'Meara's 22 disposals, nine tackles and two goals were not nearly enough to haul Gold Coast over the line. And the Suns certainly looked weary both at the start and finish of the match. Their place in the top eight is now very much in jeopardy.
3. 'The Bont' is a one-man highlight reel
Western Bulldogs youngster Marcus Bontempelli is rapidly developing a reputation as one of the most exciting players in the game. And he was at the heart of a brilliant passage of play during the Dogs' first-quarter onslaught. A long kick came to the wing where 'The Bont' was matched against Gold Coast gun Harley Bennell. As the ball arrived, Bontempelli thrust out his right hand and casually plucked it out of the air with one hand. He then kicked to Jake Stringer, who took a one-handed mark of his own. Stringer took off, fumbled the ball while trying to bounce it, then dished off a handball to Luke Dahlhaus, who dribbled through a goal off the outside of his boot. At that stage the Dogs, who were kicking into a strong breeze, led 4.0 (24) to 1.3 (9).
4. Windy weirdness
In Cairns in winter, a strong breeze blows in off the Great Barrier Reef every afternoon. In the previous AFL games at Cazaly's Stadium – all of them between Gold Coast and Richmond – just about all the scoring had been done with the wind, as it tends to howl straight down the ground. On this occasion, however, the wind proved to be more of a hindrance than a help. The Dogs turned the game on its head by kicking five goals to two into the breeze in the first quarter. Then the Suns responded with four unanswered goals into the wind in the second term. Yet the breeze dropped away completely after the sun set during the half-time break, so it was not a factor in the second half.
5. Clanger of the day
The Bulldogs were 11 points up when Sam Darley won the ball in their backline and charged towards the middle of the ground. Darley had a bounce and looked up to see his teammate Liam Picken free in the middle of the ground. If Darley's handball had found its target, the Dogs would have been off and running into their forward line. However, the handball was brilliantly picked up by Gold Coast big man Tom Lynch, who took off, galloped to the his team's attacking 50m line, then slotted a goal that was team-lifting for the Suns and morale-sapping for the Dogs. Four minutes later, Harley Bennell snapped a miraculous goal and Gold Coast, which had trailed by 22 points during the first term, was in front. However, the final score must have made Darley feel slightly better.