A commanding first-half performance from Gold Coast wasn’t enough as Brisbane kicked into gear after half-time and stormed home 18.9.117 to 13.11.89 victors in the final game of the AAMI Community Series.
There were rusty moments from both sides early, initially Suns half-back Conor Budarick who fumbled twice and was punished by a dynamic Zac Bailey to open the game’s scoring with a major.
Evergreen veteran Grant Birchall wasn’t immune, coughing up a soft Suns goal following a horrendous kick-in.
Mistimed passes seemingly contagious periodically as balls grubbered well short of their intended target and sailed out of bounds on the full.
There was plenty to like for Gold Coast fans however, Ben King kicked 1.1 in the opening term and his juggling act mark on the boundary enhanced the game’s highlight reel.
Five-game star Matt Rowell was a sight for sore eyes, his gold-class delivery to Sam Day opening the Suns’ scoring.
Rowell’s right-hand man Noah Anderson was potent bursting through the middle but his delivery was lacking early.
Gold Coast hit the front for the first time late in the first-quarter via an Alex Sexton snap and free-flowing link-up through the middle, taking a 3.3.21 to 3.0.18 lead into quarter-time.
The Suns picked up where they left off in the second-quarter, taking their dominance to new heights with 26 unanswered points before Brisbane could register a second-quarter score.
The Lions lacked composure with ball in hand, and their stars were being outplayed at the coalface by the Suns’ lesserlights. The likes of Ellis, Miller, Brodie, Markov, Rowell, and Anderson overshadowing the formidable Lyons, McCluggage, Neale, Zorko, and Berry.
Anderson continued to impress with his clean hands in and around congestion, whilst Lachie Weller and Alex Sexton’s goal-sense and cool finishing proved crucial at the foot of the contest.
Brisbane’s first-half woes were compounded by a suspected ACL tear to fourth-year star Cam Rayner, who was reduced to tears as club doctors assessed him in the changerooms.
Zac Bailey showed he's going nowhere after a breakout 2020, slotting a second goal to go with his thirteen first-half disposals.
A poetic Joe Daniher leaping chest mark and dead-eye conversion gave Brisbane fans something to smile about heading into the main break as they trailed 5.0.30 to 8.5.53.
Could Daniher be the key piece of the Lions premiership puzzle?
Premiership fancies Brisbane looked a new outfit in the second-half, regaining the lead halfway into the third term and transforming a 23-point deficit into a 25-point three-quarter-time advantage.
The turnaround coming off the back of Jarryd Lyons (6 first-half disposals) and Lachie Neale (7 first-half disposals), with 7 and 13 in the third-quarter respectively. Jarrod Berry also came to the fore with three third-quarter tackles.
Joe Daniher kickstarted the surge with his second major as he started to find his groove.
Lions’ coach Chris Fagan was full of praise for his marquee recruit – who would finish with three goals – post-game on Fox Footy: “(Daniher’s) scoring goals but he’s also setting up goals for his teammates. He attracts a lot of attention from opposition which takes it off someone else. He’s been great for us.”
Charlie Cameron was dynamic, capitalising on the new man-on-the-mark rule to set up Berry who couldn’t convert from point-blank range, and stepping and sprinting his way down the wing to instigate schoolboy Harry Sharp’s first goal.
Cameron wasn’t just creating, slotting a set shot from outside 50 having been the benefactor of a pinpoint Lyons’ bullet pass, whilst Dayne Zorko also kicked two for the quarter.
Lincoln McCarthy ensured the Lions’ third-quarter momentum carried into the fourth with a seemingly instant goal from the quarter's first clearance.
Basketball-convert Tom Fullerton disregarded his height to impact the scoreboard, expertly crumbing and cleanly snapping twice in the second-half, also demonstrating superb game awareness to assist Cameron’s third. The Daniel McStay replacement doing his round one chances no harm.
Ben King’s second goal put an end to Brisbane’s outrageous 10-goal streak, the key forward finishing with 2.1 and fellow tall Sam Day 3.0.
Alex Sexton wasn’t shy of aiming for the sticks as the game petered out, kicking 6.3 from 13 disposals – including a spectacular 40-metre banana mid-tackle – and three fourth-quarter goals to pull the scoreboard back to something respectable for Gold Coast.
There were also positive signs for Matt Rowell whose shoulder withstood impact well and played a full game after only two quarters in last week’s scratch match.
Fagan lamented Brisbane’s “terrible start, in the first half we were dominated by Gold Coast. To the credit of our players, they turned it around. It was a good hit out for us to have a game like that. We were challenged and we had to find something. We lost three or four games last year and never came from behind, so it was good to do that for our confidence.
“They were just dominating around the contest and they were spreading so much better than we were. Their work rate was just so much better. Ours noticeably lifted after half-time and we got the result because of it.”
As for Cam Rayner, Fagan confirmed the worst, but praised his character: “He’s gotta go for a scan but the physios are telling me it looks like an ACL at this stage so that’s probably season done and dusted. It’s a real tragedy for Cam, he’s worked so hard this pre-season and got to start playing in the midfield, he’s really picked up his fitness. The one thing I know about him is he’ll be a great bloke around the footy club and he won’t be a sad sack about it.”