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Noah Anderson excites and Nick Daicos revels in the AFL’s big escapes | AFL

By on July 10, 2022 0

NOToah Anderson barracked for Richmond when he was a kid. It was an odd choice, considering her father was twice prime minister with Hawthorn. Noah was 11 when a rugby league player kicked the Tigers past the siren. Her dad Dean was on the Gold Coast this weekend. That day, he learned that former teammate Paul Dear had died of pancreatic cancer. That night he watched his son score the most important goal in Gold Coast Suns history.

It shouldn’t have come to this. The Suns were 40 points behind and playing as badly as they have this year – turning the ball over, missing tackles and allowing Shai Bolton to go wild. But they found their grunt, and the visitors got the lucky ones. As impressive and important as it was for the Suns, it was a game Richmond threw away. Spilled chest marks, fixed-shot sodas, wasted open goals – it was a comedy of errors in the second half. It was the biggest lead a team had coughed up this year, and it will likely cost them the double chance. They have now left the Sydney, Geelong and Gold Coast games on the table.

But it was Gold Coast night, and there haven’t been many in the last decade. The race was difficult for this club. Over the past seven years they have finished 16-15-17-17-18-14-16. At times it looked like a club bereft of pulse and purpose. It was a club that we had to get out of as soon as possible. Two ended up in Richmond and won five premierships between them.

Nick Daicos celebrates a goal with his brother Josh at the MCG on Saturday. Photo: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/Getty Images

But they weren’t so bad last year. They’ve been stiff in a number of close games. They lost their captain, their ruckman and their best young player for most of the season. Even off season, they just couldn’t take a break. Ben King’s knee bent during a training exercise. “It’s just football,” he said. There was immediate speculation as to whether he would be signed by a Melbourne club. The pressure on Stuart Dew intensified.

One can still wonder if it is a real football club. But they are finally a real football team. A good football team has players like Touk Miller. A good team does not close shop when seven goals down. A football team has players ready to chase players who run into open goals. Anderson’s clutch goal was the exclamation point of a season in which there was a distinct shift, a season where they finally earned the respect of the footballing world.

Anderson played on the same premiership-winning school team as Matt Rowell and Nick Daicos. A few hours earlier, the latter had once again entered the frame as one of the best first-year players of this century. Daicos, like his father, is a joy to watch. He only played half a dozen youth football games over the two Covid years. But he plays a very grown-up game. Most first-year players are baked in the winter. Daicos is improving week by week. His 50m kick to his brother on the Gold Coast last week was almost pornographic. It certainly rocked the game.

This week, his Magpies have all been at sea for three quarters. They were 28 points behind a North Melbourne side that was supposedly in disarray. It felt like a repeat of the West Coast game – one of the most inexplicable losses in years. When Taylor Adams won the first punt of last term, there were cheers from the Bronx. But the Roos, who had attacked the corridor at every opportunity, returned to their saddlebags. Daicos’ lavish goal was a return to Victoria Park in the early 1990s. They were still eight points behind but there’s no way they’ll lose from then on.

The former Collingwood coach is currently on the Kokoda Trail. He feels the current team reminds him of 2018-19. “It’s pretty much the same team, insists Nathan Buckley. But there were a few crucial additions – from the professionally tough Jack Ginnivan, to the cute Beau McCreery, to the clean and cool Daicos. The Magpies now excel in close games. They attack. And there is a real sense of calm and purpose at the club. Aside from the Jordan De Goey circus, there was almost no distraction off the pitch. Craig McRae, like his captain, like his first draft pick, like his team and like the whole club right now, is wasting no energy. In a compressed top eight, with Brisbane and St Kilda both losing games, Collingwood is as good a watch and as good a chance as anyone.