HAVING arrived at Gold Coast as a near-inseparable duo, it has taken some time for Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell to finally enjoy a long run of matches together.
Drafted to the Suns together and then debuting side-by-side in round one of 2020, the schoolmates have been virtual ever-presents in 2022 as the Suns have climbed to a 4-5 record despite a tough draw that has included matches against all of the current top six.
Anderson's illness-enforced absence for the round eight win over Sydney at the SCG was the only match either has missed this year, a welcome statistic for Rowell after an injury-disrupted first two seasons.
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"I love playing with him," Anderson, who has already racked up 45 matches for the Suns, said.
"You know what you're going to get.
"He's super reliable and he just really enjoys playing his footy. He's a pleasure to play with."
Rowell hasn't quite had the same level of impact as he did in his first five AFL matches when he exploded on the scene, but his contest around stoppages is a key element in the Suns' play.
It's a gutsy style that was epitomised in Sunday's impressive 36-point win over high-flying Fremantle when Rowell beat Dockers' star Caleb Sarong to a contested ball, sparking a chain which led to a second-quarter goal for the Suns.
"He's a team lifter," Anderson said.
"He always has those kinds of big contests where he wins or halves them.
"Little things like that and little moments throughout the game are always pretty key."
Anderson and the Suns will be looking to continue their climb towards the top eight when they face the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat on Saturday.
Taking on the Bulldogs' midfield unit is one Anderson is looking forward to.
Bailey Smith, Jack Macrae, Tom Liberatore and Marcus Bontempelli were all hugely influential in the Dogs' demolition of Collingwood last weekend and Anderson knows the Suns will have to bring their best if they're to back up their win over the Dockers against last year's Grand Finalists.
"They've got a super midfield group and are going really well in their contested footy," he said.
"Another great challenge for our group and if we want to keep excelling and moving forward, then we're going to have to play well against teams like the Bulldogs.
"It's a great opportunity for us."