Saturday, April 2, 2011 was a special day for the AFL.
Two years in the making, the league’s GC17 product was to have its first run for premiership points in Round 2 of the 2011 season.
Skipping the first week with a bye, the Gold Coast Suns were hosting Carlton at the Gabba and the footy world was curious to see the result.
Each week, Aflplayers.com.au will bring to light the perspective of someone at the heart of a memorable moment from a game played between two sides before their upcoming clash.
Danny Stanley was one of Gold Coast’s mature recruits. After spending four years with Collingwood, the then 23-year-old was set to line up in his sixth AFL match and remembers the build up to a significant moment in the club’s short history.
“No one really knew what to expect and the majority of them were young kids with not a whole lot of expectation,” Stanley told Aflplayers.com.au.
“We had a pretty good list on paper and we thought we were going to be competitive. We had the speed and the talent but knew sustaining it for extended periods might be the real challenge.”
The Blues got on the front foot early in champion Chris Judd’s 250th AFL match and despite strong performances from the likes of the Suns’ senior recruits in Michael Rischitelli, Daniel Harris and Gary Ablett, they couldn’t stop the bleeding, with Carlton leading by an astounding 52 points at quarter time.
But there were little wins for the young club, with Charlie Dixon kicking the Suns’ first two goals in an encouraging display in front of nearly 28,000 people.
The half-time scoreline was less encouraging — Gold Coast trailed by 74 points at the main break and would be 119 points down as the final siren sounded.
Stanley walked off the field with 13 disposals and his first goal in AFL footy but it was a tough day playing at the front end of the ground.
“It was tough, it felt like we didn’t have the ball at any stage of the game and were just chasing blokes around all day. Sometimes it felt like they had extra men on the ground.
“A few of the senior players went well but a lot of us struggled with the level and that was the story for us for the majority of the year.”
But the aftermath was still a significant one for Guy McKenna’s men and they understood the situation they were in — it was all about learning.
“We were always big on competing for the whole year, so a lot of the messages were about which players are going to compete for us,” Stanley added.
“We were a young side and a new team so we wanted players who were going to have a crack. When in the position of not being able to win, we knew to try and get something out of it, learn a bit and gain some resilience.
“We didn’t cop a spray or anything like that after the first match, it was more about learning a bit from playing against a mature club with a great history such as Carlton.
“There was still a lot of excitement around because not a lot of us, including myself, had played that much AFL footy, so to be part of it was great.”
Now into the next phase of his life, Stanley believes being part of the Gold Coast Suns’ first match for premiership points is a moment he’ll cherish.
But it’ll be something he appreciates as time goes on.
“Being part of a significant moment in the club’s history is still something I and a lot of the playing group probably haven’t realised just yet.
“It’s something we’ll look back on years down the track but it was a bit of a whirlwind on the night and the occasion escapes your mind a bit.
“It’s a moment I’ll hold close to my heart forever especially when the time is right — they’re still a fresh club in the scheme of things.”