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Where: Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast
When: 10.40 (BST)
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Fresh of just their second victory ever in the annual Q-Clash, the Gold Coast Suns will have their biggest test of the season when they play the high-flying Hawthorn Hawks at home.
The Suns showed they are the dominant team in south-east Queensland after beating the Lions easily by 53 points last round with Gary Ablett starring for the Suns.
Ablett notched up 38 disposals and booted three goals on his way to a second Marcus Ashcroft Medal in the QClash, and he looms as the unbeaten Hawks’ biggest stumbling block when they travel to Metricon Stadium.
Asked what Hawthorn can do to restrict the mercurial skipper’s influence, Hawthorn midfielder Issac Smith replied: “You just don’t let him get the footy, I don’t know how you do that.
“I think what you’ve got to do is stop his impact when he gets it, but he’s going to get the footy so I think you’ve just got to cop that a little bit.”
Although Ablett is still clearly the No.1 player at Gold Coast – and indeed the competition in most people’s eyes – he is now supported by a group of rising Suns who are growing in stature by the week.
Dion Prestia, last year’s NAB AFL Rising Star Jaeger O’Meara, Andrew Swallow and Harley Bennell are among the next wave of Gold Coast on-ballers causing headaches for their opponents.
“Their midfield’s quality, but they’ve got good players all over the ground; it’s actually really good to see them playing well at the moment,” Smith said.
While Ablett has started 2014 in sizzling fashion and is the star in the dangerous Suns midfield, the Hawks have shown they are the number one contenders, and deserving front-runners to win the flag again.
In what was a litmus test early in the season for the Hawks, they played the Fremantle Dockers last round and made it look easy, despite having several big names out injured.
If they can continue to play well and use their depth, then the Hawks are favorites to win this game against the Suns, but the margin won’t be a large as it has been in past years if Gold Coast’s improvement is anything to go by.