18/04/2024

Tara Bohanna's final quarter surge broke an 11-game losing streak for Gold Coast. (Photo: Gold Coast Suns/Twitter)

After three quarters which demonstrated Gold Coast's forward deficiencies, Tara Bohanna exploded in front of goals to break an 11-game losing streak.

None of the Gold Coast Suns’ forward problems mattered in an enormous final term comeback, held up on the shoulders of Tara Bohanna.

In just her second game at AFLW level, the versatile tall showed just why she was one of the VFLW’s best in 2021, helping break the Suns’ 11-game losing streak.

Three goals all coming in the last quarter made all the issues of the side’s forward structure in the first three quarters disappear in a monumental individual performance.

Leading by two points coming into the final quarter, the Suns looked to be running out of puff in a repeat of last week’s loss to the Giants. The Eagles kicked three straight, with Mikayla Bowen, Kellie Gibson, and Maddy Collier all looking to seal the match in their first ‘home’ game away from home.

But after picking up steam in the third term with a pinpoint kick to Lucy Single from the 50 metre arc and an elite bit of bodywork to give Sarah Perkins her first, Bohanna got completely off the hook.

Coach Cameron Joyce spoke on the immense comeback that she provided.

“I wish I could have seen [that last quarter] coming,” he told media post-game.

“As the game goes, things start to open up. I don’t think there was any one thing [that changed]. Us being able to wrestle [the pressure] back, and the work of Tara Bohanna in the last quarter [helped].

“She’s been close, she’s been working super hard, and she’s really valuing the opportunity at this level. It wasn’t all her day last week, but she still competed.

“I think it’s just one thing that every girl should understand, that if you keep persisting things will happen.”

Tara Bohanna celebrates one of her goals with teammate Kalinda Howarth. (Photo: Gold Coast Suns)

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It wasn’t all perfect for the Suns up forward though, struggling to convert their opportunities in the first three quarters.

Despite leading the inside 50s 24-12 at three quarter time, they had kicked just 2.4. They had ample opportunities in front of goal, but just couldn’t convert.

It was an almost game for the likes of Tori Groves-Little, whose four touches all almost resulted in a score. But the primary issue in those first three quarters was picking out marking targets.

Gold Coast only found one mark inside 50 leading into the final break. Joyce is under no illusions that the forward line has solved all its issues after just two games in his coaching system.

“We had some reasonable time in forward half, we had some good numbers in inside 50s that we’ve trying to improve on in our practice game and our first round,” he said.

“It’s a combination of a few things in terms of direction of the footy, getting it in a bit quicker so we get a better chance at it, how can we then lock it in. It all feeds into each other.

“We’ll certainly go to work at that connection… but we do need to get better at converting. We need to improve whether that’s accuracy or that bit of connection between midfield and forward.”

The players who stepped up

After a quiet start to life in the AFLW, 2021 number one pick Charlie Rowbottom exploded out of the gates with six tackles in the first quarter.

She was one of the constant contested forces, and one of the main reasons why the Suns finished the day +12 in contested possessions and +18 in tackles.

Also key to this were the likes of Jamie Stanton, who came to life in the second term, and Ellie Hampson, who finished with 16 disposals and seven tackles.

“She [Rowbottom] ended up with a dozen tackles, [with] Ellie Hampson they had 19 tackles between them, they’re pretty tough,” Joyce said.

“If they can bring that most weeks, we’re positioned to be up for a contest. She had 16 possessions but it’s not all about the touches, it’s the things around that, how she competes.

“She might have made things easier from the Rising Star front too.”

Alongside Bohanna aerially, there was no player who epitomised the shift in forward structure than Kate Surman did at ground level.

She finished the game with two goals alongside her 14 disposals, an absolute force of forward pressure.

The ability to hold on and see out a tight game was a stark contrast not only to the Suns of last week, but of their first two seasons.

Gold Coast dropped its fixture against West Coast last year by a point, and in 2020 similarly couldn’t close out a game against North Melbourne at Arden Street.

But showing what they can do at their best now, the coach believes they need to hold themselves to that standard.

“They’ve showed what they can do under a bit of adversity and a bit of pressure,” Joyce said.

“It definitely gives them confidence, and also too throughout the game there was a bit of composure, a bit of good ball movement. I thought our contested work was good all game.

“It was a very contested game, and West Coast challenged us ahead of the footy at times. There’s things we need to work on and improve on, but we’re trying to improve every time to get better.”

Per current fixturing, the Suns next play the much-anticipated QClash on Saturday, January 22.

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