Brook "Boris" Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA
Tropical Cairns greeted a Richmond outfit with a genuine chance to lift themselves into the Top Eight with a win over a much improved Gold Coat Suns. A solid showing in Round 15 against reigning Premiers Geelong gave the Suns renewed hope that their first win of the season was just around the corner. The Tigers' hierarchy was anxious for a win in Cairns having lost the equivalent “home” game in 2011, giving rise to criticism of the three year package brokered by the Tigers to assist in funding a depleted football department. Gold Coast fans would have been well pleased to learn that in-form Tiger ruckman Ivan Maric was a late withdrawal due to groin soreness.
A disappointing crowd of 10,900 was in attendance as the Tigers drew first blood through Robin Nahas. It was a fairly even affair for the first twenty minutes with Gary Ablett Jr getting plenty of the football as was Richmond gun Trent Cotchin. Gold Coast bad boy Campbell Brown got the Suns on the board with a goal and scores remained neck and neck until late in the quarter when the Suns broke free for two late goals. In slippery conditions due to the humidity, the Suns led at quarter time by twelve points.
If Richmond fans were a little frustrated by the Tiger skill level in the first quarter they would have been steaming more than the concession stand hot dogs in the second. Numerous turnovers and handling errors derailed many Tiger forward thrusts and, despite having the ball inside their 50 meter arc on numerous occasions, they could not manage to get goals on the board. Gold Coast on the other hand had Harley Bennell and Ablett running rampant all over the ground. When Alex Rance left the field with a leg injury in the second quarter, his opponent – former high jumper Josh Hall - immediately kicked two goals and an upset looked a reality. At half time the Suns held a commanding 7.9 to 4.3 lead over the hapless Tigers.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick would have been furious with his team’s inept performance in the first half, and he no doubt let his charges know what he thought of their effort during the long break. A different Tiger team appeared to take the field in the third quarter with Cotchin and Brett Deledio leading the charge for Richmond. Nahas was lively, kicking three third quarter goals as Richmond piled on five in a row to take the lead. Jack Riewoldt was also looking back in form after a few tough weeks for the Tigers. Brandon Matera was busy for the Gold Coast and Harbrow was causing the makeshift Richmond defense some problems as the injuries piled up. First it was Jake Batchelor, then Captain Chris Newman succumbing to injury for Richmond as the game became a battle of attrition. At three quarter time the Tigers had worked hard to regain the lead by four points, but the injury toll and Cairns heat would make for an interesting last quarter.
The final quarter commenced with both teams going in hard. The Suns could smell blood in the water as the Tigers were feeling the northern heat and having to quell their rotations due to injured players in their ranks. In the early going it was the class of Cotchin and Deledio with help from the rookie Brandon Ellis who kept the Tigers in the lead. At one stage Richmond had forged an 18 point lead that looked relatively safe but, as has been the case on many occasions, the Tigers lost composure when they needed it most. When a long Josh Caddy goal reduced the Tiger lead to less than two goals, the young Gold Coast team went in for the kill. It was left to too few Richmond players to possess the football and, as they tried to save the game, numerous errors caused turnovers that fueled the Suns' belief. With time ticking down, Richmond cracked under the pressure or perhaps they simply ran out of gas. Inside the last minute, Harbrow walked through the Richmond defense - a deplorable one-handed tackle attempt the only hiccup in an otherwise simple run and goal - and his goal put the margin down to four points.
The last 45 seconds will go down in Suns' history – and Tiger infamy – as a poor center square setup and some inexplicably poor work in defense led to Matera being able to snap the ball into the arms of a waiting Karmichael Hunt just 35 meters from goal. The siren sounded, ending what ex-Swans coach Paul Roos would later describe as the “worst 47 seconds of footy ever played” at AFL level. Hunt had to line up and nail his shot after the siren if Gold Coast were to win the match. Every Tiger supporter both at the game or watching on TV knew exactly what was about to happen – Hunt would split the center of the goals, win the game and send the Suns' players and fans into a well-deserved celebration. Richmond players, heads in hands and shock and shame etched on their faces, trudged from the field, knowing full well that they had just blown their chance at Finals football in 2012.
Scoreboard Richmond: 2.2 4.3 10.7 13.10 (88) Gold Coast: 4.2 7.9 9.9 13.12 (90) Best Players Richmond: Cotchin, Deledio, Ellis, Riewoldt, Nahas, Conca Gold Coast: Ablett, Bennell, Stanley, McKenzie, Matera, Harbrow
Article last changed on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - 5:27 AM EDT