Gold Coast defeat Richmond in Damien Hardwick’s first match as Suns fans make Dustin Martin pitch

Damien Hardwick has copped the full Gold Coast experience in a wildly fluctuating win against former club Richmond to begin his Suns era.

The Suns’ 14.15 (99) to 9.6 (60) victory in front of a full house at home on Saturday was far from regulation — Gold Coast up by 67 points but facing anxious moments when the under-manned visitors reduced the gap to 23.

An off-the-ball 50-metre penalty and a controversial deliberate call on Nathan Broad created final-quarter Suns goals.

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That helped ease the nerves for Hardwick, who won three flags as Tigers coach and has hopes of leading the Suns to their first finals campaign in their 14th season.

Matt Rowell had 20 clearances — the second most in AFL history — among 33 disposals, while Wil Powell had 28 important touches for the Suns.

Richmond, missing Tom Lynch, Dustin Martin and Toby Nankervis, struck first through Shai Bolton.

But the red carpet was rolled out from there: Ben King was dominant with four first-half goals, Jack Lukosius struck three and Malcolm Rosas Jr collected a neat early double.

A cardboard cutout of the injured Martin, in a Suns guernsey in the stands, could only look on.

A cardboard cutout of Martin. Credit: Fox Footy

His teammates on the ground weren’t much more useful as the Suns built a 67-point lead.

Hardwick’s men racked up an incredible 11 consecutive majors in an opening half that seemed too good to be true.

And when it seems like that, it usually is.

The Tigers’ second goal just shy of halftime made it a 61-point margin – a Suns club record – but stopped the rot and set the scene for the Tigers’ reply.

Noah Balta steamed into the goal square and drop-kicked a goal, Bolton and Seth Campbell added to their tallies and Jacob Hopper goaled after David Swallow was harshly pinged for a high tackle.

A 38-3 third term dragged the Tigers back to within 26 points.

An off-the-ball 50m penalty led to Brayden Fiorini’s second and helped settle the Suns’ nerves.

But a poor clearance landed in Hopper’s lap and he kicked another.

A reversing Broad was called for deliberately taking the ball over the line and Rosas Jr accepted the crucial resulting goal to make it a 31-point margin with eight minutes to play.

King then bagged a career equal-high fifth goal in the final minute.

Jayden Short led Richmond with 23 disposals.


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