The Western Bulldogs have vaulted back up the AFL ladder with a comfortable 48-point win over an injury-depleted Gold Coast at Cazalys Stadium in Cairns.
The Bulldogs led at every change on Saturday night to continue their unbeaten record in far north Queensland, with the 15.17 (107) to 8.11 (59) result moving them past Sydney and Geelong and into third spot.
But it might have come at a significant cost, with star forward Jake Stringer suffering a suspected shoulder injury after copping a heavy bump from Gold Coast enforcer Steven May.
Stringer briefly emerged from the sheds after going off in the third quarter but didn’t make it back onto the field.
Midfield was the key battleground and it was there the Suns were simply blown away, having lost their three best on-ballers – Gary Ablett, Michael Rischitelli and Dion Prestia – last week to major injuries.
Their stand-ins battled manfully, but the Bulldogs’ top-tier players gorged on clearances (36-26) and contested ball (132-115) and victory for them never looked in doubt.
Koby Stevens (34 disposals, seven clearances) was their leading possession getter while Mitch Wallis and Clay Smith kicked three goals.
Tom Boyd also made an encouraging return from a club-imposed suspension, and was mobbed by teammates when he kicked a monster 50m set-shot goal to start the third quarter.
Tom Lynch, expected to succeed Ablett next season as Suns captain, booted three goals.
Aided by a strong breeze, the Bulldogs kicked six goals in the first term – Smith and Stevens both grabbing two apiece – and were 42 points ahead at the long break.
The Suns struggled to break their defensive shackles, scoring just five goals after quarter-time.