A KNEE injury to Port Adelaide champion Robbie Gray has taken the gloss off its comfortable 50-point triumph over lacklustre Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
Playing in his 250th game, Gray left the field during the second quarter of the 12.9 (81) to 4.7 (31) victory with what was later diagnosed as a medial strain.
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Lachie Jones also suffered a hamstring injury during the third term, but the four premiership points was well in hand in the one-sided contest.
Port was as professional as you'd want from a premiership fancy, never giving the disappointing Suns a look-in, leading by 15 points at quarter-time, 34 at the half and 58 at the final change.
Ollie Wines had a massive day out, gathering 43 disposals to miss Peter Burgoyne's club record, set in 2008, by a solitary touch.
He led a team that worked harder and worked smarter than Gold Coast.
Connor Rozee (three goals from 19 touches) continued the dynamic form he recaptured last week, while Aliir Aliir and Steven Motlop were also crucial contributors.
After Ben King kicked the opening goal of the game, Port took charge, punishing turnovers from the home team with swift ball movement.
Motlop was fantastic, revelling in open space, gathering 26 disposals to go with two goals. He also gave a handpass to Jarrod Lienert for his first AFL goal in his 20th career game, much to the delight of his teammates.
Motlop's willingness to run hard summed up the difference between the teams, as once the ball left congestion the wave of options Port had was staggering.
In contrast, any time the Suns went forward either Aliir – vying with Wines for best afield honours - or Trent McKenzie were there to cut it off.
Just seven days after coach Stuart Dew lamented his team's inability to make Fremantle work for its victory, Gold Coast again was well off the pace.
Rozee red-hot again
Fresh off kicking five goals in his last start against Geelong, Connor Rozee was at it again. Not only was he dangerous in attack, kicking three goals from 19 disposals, but his work-rate without the ball would have thrilled Ken Hinkley. A rundown tackle on Noah Anderson in the second quarter led to a Karl Amon goal, while his full-length smother of an Oleg Markov kick led to another shot at goal.
Suns a long way off it
Gold Coast was terrible against a depleted Fremantle seven days ago – it was even worse this week. Just as they did against the Dockers, the Suns' work-rate away from the contest was below par, allowing Port to find uncontested men all over the ground. Equally as troubling was when they had ball in hand, referring pressure to stationary teammates with backwards handballs and then missing targets repeatedly by foot when going forward. Next Saturday's match against North Melbourne in Hobart suddenly looms as critical to the trajectory of Gold Coast's season.
Aliir continues a brilliant season
Already seen as one of the great off-season acquisitions, former Swan Aliir Aliir enhanced his reputation again with a dominant display. Whether Port Adelaide orchestrated its defence to use him as a spare man or he just beat his opponent directly, Aliir constantly thwarted the Suns with his aggressive ball-hunting. He finished with 12 intercepts from 20 disposals and had five score involvements.
GOLD COAST 1.0 2.1 2.4 4.7 (31)
PORT ADELAIDE 3.3 7.5 11.8 12.9 (81)
Gold Coast: King 2, Bowes, Sexton
Port Adelaide: Rozee 3, Dixon 2, Georgiades 2, Motlop 2, Lienert, Amon, Lycett
Gold Coast: Miller, Anderson, Powell, Lukosius
Port Adelaide: Wines, Motlop, Aliir, Amon, Drew, Houston
Gold Coast: Collins (ankle, replaced in selected side by Graham); Swallow (concussion); Weller (hamstring)
Port Adelaide: Gray (knee); Jones (hamstring)
Gold Coast: Fiorini (replaced Swallow)
Port Adelaide: Hartlett (replaced Gray)
Crowd: 7117 at Metricon Stadium