A new-look Melbourne have scored an upset 26-point AFL win over Gold Coast at the MCG.
With seven players making their debuts for the club, the Demons led at every change and saw off a late challenge by the fast-finishing Suns on Saturday to record the 17.13 (115) to 13.11 (89) victory.
Gary Ablett played with his left shoulder heavily strapped and appeared to be hampered at times, but he looked set to break Demons hearts with back-to-back goals that narrowed the margin to eight points in the final term.
However, the Demons dug deep with Heritier Lumumba kicking an inspirational goal in his 200th AFL game that sparked a decisive four-goal burst.
Jack Viney shadowed Ablett for most of the game and kept the dual-Brownlow medallist to 19 possessions while gathering 24 of his own.
Nathan Jones worked hard for his 25 disposals, while Tom McDonald was important down back with 26 touches.
Dion Prestia led the way for the Suns with 29 possessions, but he didn’t have enough support in a midfield that was outworked by the Demons.
The match started in fiery fashion with the Suns’ Matt Shaw reported for a high hit on Dean Kent.
A nine-point quarter-time lead to Melbourne quickly blew out to 28 points early in the second term before the Suns enjoyed a bright patch with successive goals.
The Demons of old would’ve wilted under the increased pressure, but a team-lifting goal from Jones sent them into halftime with a deserved 25-point advantage.
Jesse Hogan was one of three Demons players making their AFL debuts and he put his side further ahead with the first goal of his career early in the third quarter.
Gold Coast mounted another challenge, with Michael Rischitelli booting two goals and first-gamer Adam Saad adding another in a three-goal burst, but Melbourne replied yet again.
Former Carlton forward Jeff Garlett impressed with his forward pressure all day and booted his second goal as the Demons restored a 25-point buffer at three-quarter time.
Ablett turned the game in Gold Coast’s favour in a thrilling final term, but Paul Roos’ men held their nerve to get their season off to a winning start.