Shirt Front: Justin Leppitsch right to draw Lion in the sand
IT WAS always going to end in tears for one of them.
But the local Queensland dust-up on Saturday night didn't have to end with one coach again lamenting his players' lack of fight.
Barring a draw, one of the Suns and Lions were going to be leaving Metricon Stadium as losers. Both could've walked off with their heads high though.
Instead, the visitors would not have been proud of looking more like lambs to the slaughter than Lions after being pummelled by 64 points in QClash 9.
Okay, Lions skipper Tom Rockliff had an excuse, leaving the ground on a stretcher in the first term after he was met solidly by hulking Suns fullback Steven May.
Just five weeks after suffering broken ribs and a punctured lung, Rocky was back in hospital, though later cleared of a broken jaw.
But while Lions coach Justin Leppitsch wouldn't comment on the incident post-match, he was well within his right to take his own swipe at his team.
"I wouldn't mind some of our players playing the way Steven May played, to be honest," he told reporters. "At least he actually cared and did something about their previous performances - our blokes didn't."
You didn't have to be a senior coach to realise one team came to play a little more than the other. One wanted a win a little more than the other.
There was nothing in total disposals (Suns 394, Lions 384) and marks (Suns 87, Lions 93). But the Suns laid 92 tackles to the Lions' 62. In their previous four games, the Suns had registered 65, 54, 53 and 53.
The other big discrepancy was in the column that matters most - goals. It was 18 to seven, yet both teams had 53 inside-50m entries.
Leppitsch this time singled out the small forwards, Josh Green and Lewis Taylor, for a lambasting. Neither kicked a goal and had just three tackles between them.
"As a small forward, you've got to kick goals, but you've got to get it off the opposition first," he said. "You can't rely on your 200cm players to turn the ball over in your front half. That's the job of a small. If you don't want to accept it, don't play."
The bigger issue for the Lions, however, is lack of, well, bigger blokes.
They were forced to use Harris Andrews and Daniel McStay as the key forwards and Justin Clarke and Darcy Gardiner as the key backs. They've got just 78 games between them.
Gardiner and Clarke were overpowered by Charlie Dixon (6 goals) and Tom Lynch (3). Andrews and McStay failed to have an impact in attack (one goal each).
All will be fine players but you just hope they don't get too scarred from this baptism of fire they are experiencing.
Gold Coast was missing Gary Ablett, Jaeger O'Meara, Nick Malceski, David Swallow and Rory Thompson, who was a late withdrawal.
But the absence of tall timber Jonathan Brown (retired), Daniel Merrett (injured), Joel Patfull (GWS Giants), Matt Maguire (reserves) and Brent Staker (injured early in the game) is clearly being felt more up the road at Brisbane.
The Lions will go hard at Richmond fullback Alex Rance, and a key forward next trade period - wouldn't they love a Dixon. But until then, it's going to be long, frustrating winter for Leppitsch.