A clear ruck advantage won’t lull Gold Coast into a false sense of security for their AFL clash with undermanned Hawthorn.
The Hawks’ ruck stocks have taken a beating, exacerbated this week by Max Lynch (concussion) joining Ben McEvoy (neck) and Ned Reeves (shoulder) on the sidelines.
It means they will enter Saturday night’s contest in Darwin without a recognised ruckman to take on in-form Suns co-captain Jarrod Witts.
Conor Nash, Daniel Howe, Jacob Koschitzke and even defender Sam Frost, who rucked a little during his time at Melbourne and spent time forward last week, have all been floated as possible centre-square opponents for Witts.
The Hawks’ desperate situation is similar to that which Gold Coast faced last season, when they battled through without the services of ruck pair Witts and Zac Smith, who has since retired, due to injury.
“We’ve lived that life last year when we didn’t have a recognised ruck for 15-16 weeks, and it can work both ways,” Suns coach Stuart Dew said.
“There’s no givens and we’re aware of that.
“We had a couple of good wins last year without a ruck, so our guys are pretty familiar with that situation.”
As well as Lynch, the Hawks have lost gun midfielder Jaeger O’Meara (hamstring), with Jack Scrimshaw and Connor Macdonald returning to the side.
O’Meara’s absence is another win for Gold Coast’s on-ball division, led by prolific ball-winner Touk Miller and fellow stoppage stars Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson.
The Suns will have to make do without unlucky defender Rory Thompson (knee), Jy Farrar (concussion) and Sean Lemmens (virus protocols), and have recalled Caleb Graham, Jeremy Sharp and Alex Davies after strong VFL form.
Gold Coast and Hawthorn have both emerged as surprise finals contenders this season, with the Hawks’ upset of Brisbane in round 10 putting the competition on notice.
The Suns have so far beaten three top-eight sides – Fremantle, Sydney and Carlton – and victory over Hawthorn would strengthen their claims for September action.
“It’s another opportunity,” Dew said.
“Every week we feel like we’re a chance to win and Hawthorn had a fantastic win (last) weekend.
“They’ve been really attacking and aggressive in their play, so it’s going to be a good test.
“We feel like we match up reasonably well, so the lads are pretty keen.
“Last week (in a loss to the Western Bulldogs) we never gave in but we didn’t quite give our best, so we want to try and turn that around this week.”