Nifty Niamh helps open up game for finals-bound Suns

GOLD Coast Suns are finals-bound for just the second time in their history after a 14-point win over Essendon last night booked their spot.

Big leads were not the order of the night, but the Suns held their composure to take the win and book their finals berth.

The match was also in Mackay, where humid conditions meant marking was a struggle at times, and run was more crucial than normal.

Enter Niamh McLaughlin, who at times played an underrated, but still crucial role in the win.

The humid conditions did mean marking in particularly the forward line was hard to come by, with usually strong markers Tara Bohanna, Jacqui Dupuy and Bonnie Toogood all struggling.

There was also plenty of congestion at top of attacking 50, which meant that each side really had to rely on their midfield runners to get attacks going, which is where McLaughlin really came into play. Not only is she quick, but she has the tank to keep running, which proved very handy for the Suns.

She finished with 344m gained for the match, which is big for a number of reasons. It was the second highest tally on the ground, behind only fellow Sun Lucy Single, and is by far her biggest tally for the season. Coming into last night, her average for the season was 144.4m gained, with her biggest tally coming back in Round 2 with 253m gained.

She also provided one for the highlight real, soloing to herself mid one of her sprints forward just like countrywoman Aileen Gilroy only a fortnight prior, also in that part of the world.

It is only McLaughlin’s first season in the competition, but she has slotted in so seamlessly into the Suns line up and moving forward into the finals campaign, her skillset will be crucial as the Suns hope to progress deep into the finals.

Although Gold Coast’s finals journey is still very much up in the air in terms of the path they will have to take (top four versus bottom half of the top eight), many teams have speedsters and like to use them to full advantage, and now Gold Coast have one of their own.

McLaughlin is also a strong feeder of the ball inside 50, and with the targets the Suns have inside 50 the more players they have that can hit up targets inside 50 the better.

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