The jury is still out on how competitive Gold Coast will be in their first AFL season after a weakened Suns side was thrashed by Sydney in Southport on Saturday.
The Suns fielded nine players, including former Adelaide defender and acting skipper Nathan Bock, who haven’t played a match this pre-season in the 14.11 (95) to 3.5 (23) loss to the Swans in driving rain.
With at least 10 of their best players missing, it remained unclear just how the fledgling side would perform in their debut season.
Skipper Gary Ablett, former Lions Jared Brennan and Michael Rischitelli, former Hawthorn defender Campbell Brown, code-hopper Karmichael Hunt, Nathan Krakouer, Jarrod Harbrow and young guns David Swallow, Maverick Weller and Brandon Matera were all missing.
Their opening pre-season matches were played as two 20-minute halves and last week they took a depleted side to Perth to acquaint their younger players with long-distance travel.
On Saturday they had the chance to impress supporters and fully test their ability against a strong Sydney line-up.
Instead the Suns fielded their most inexperienced team of the pre-season and it showed.
They have only the Queensland derby against Brisbane in Southport on Sunday week to fully gauge their form heading into their first match of the season proper, against Carlton in round two on April 2.
Dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes shone for Sydney, kicking six goals, including the opening three majors of the third term.
The majority of his goals were scored from set shots from near point-blank range as he toyed with the Gold Coast defensive line, too strong and nimble for Michael Coad and rookie-listed Jake Crawford.
The Swans handled the wet and slippery conditions well and easily created a loose man at will as they prepare for a shot at more finals football in 2011.
Bock’s first hit-out for the season was promising and former Collingwood ruckman Josh Fraser stood out for Gold Coast.
Sydney coach John Longmire said because the Suns fielded such an inexperienced team, he concentrated on refining his own structures and game plan.
“They are making a lot of changes and rotating their players too, from our point of view we had to make sure we did our things right,” Longmire told reporters.
“During the pre-season you tend to make sure you keep working on the things you have to do regardless of the opposition.
“We can only play who we play … from our point of view it’s business as usual and next week we are going to get a really good hit out against the Saints.”
Suns coach Guy McKenna said he would field their strongest side of the pre-season against Brisbane, although it will still be without Ablett (groin) and Brennan (ankle).
He said the Swans clash gave him the opportunity to see several youngsters who are well down the pecking order when it comes to their best side.
“From the last time we played Sydney there were 11 changes and I think five of them were defenders,” McKenna said.
“That’s what the pre-season is about, finding out about these kids.
“We’ll be pretty close (to full strength against Brisbane).
“Based on our conditioning and where everyone is at, we have to weigh that up, but I’d say between 70 and 80 per cent.”