The sight of Gary Ablett in full kit on the sidelines was the closest Gold Coast got to greatness in their scrappy 25-point NAB Challenge pre-season win over fellow battlers Brisbane.
Inspirational Suns captain Ablett caused a stir in the 3807-strong crowd in Burpengary, north of Brisbane, on Sunday when he appeared before the match in his Gold Coast gear.
Sadly, he was only getting ready to pose for a promotional photo before joining fellow star Suns midfielders David Swallow, Dion Prestia and Jaeger O’Meara on the sidelines.
Ablett is not expected to be sighted until the March 11 pre-season clash against Adelaide due to a foot complaint.
Forward Tom Lynch took up the reins in Ablett’s absence and led by example in the 0.9.14 (68) to 0.6.7 (43) win, kicking three goals.
Gold Coast’s Touk Miller stood out in an undermanned midfield with 16 telling disposals, while former West Coast winger Matt Rosa (19 disposals) provided plenty of run.
Brisbane were also without the bulk of their big names, fielding a squad boasting an average of 24 games a player.
Gold Coast averaged 50 games a player.
As a result, the Suns dominated, leading clearances 42-29, inside 50s 56-32 and contested possessions 148-115.
Nine players were making their debut for Brisbane, including No.2 draft pick Josh Schache, former Blue Tom Bell and former Cats Josh Walker and Jarrad Jansen.
Stand-in skipper Mitch Robinson and Bell impressed, as did busy draftee Rhys Mathieson, while Schache showed flashes of brilliance up forward in a first-half cameo.
The Lions needed all the goal-scoring firepower they could get – they kicked just three majors after the first quarter.
Rested stars including skipper Tom Rockliff, Pearce Hanley, Dayne Zorko, Daniel Rich and North Melbourne recruit Ryan Bastinac are set to appear in their next clash against St Kilda on March 6 in Mackay.
Gold Coast’s next match is against West Coast in Joondalup on March 3.