Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade believes Essendon will surprise many this AFL campaign but not his Suns.
The Bombers, shorn of several players due to season-long doping bans, begin a campaign many believe will end in a wooden spoon against the Suns at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
Led by new coach John Worsfold and with a stack of former and retired top-up players in their line-up, the Bombers are expected to struggle for most of the season.
A heavy defeat to West Coast in the pre-season seemed to confirm many’s suspicions about this Bombers lineup and the long winter that lies ahead.
Eade though is taking nothing for granted in a match he knows the Suns cannot afford to lose.
“I’m not, in my mind, doom and gloom for Essendon as a lot of people are,” Eade said.
“I think they’ll be okay. The times they get injuries it might hurt them but I think they’ve got enough quality players there, they’ve got some good kids that they’ve drafted.
“They lost to West Coast by whatever they lost by, 90 points or whatever, but they still had 45 inside 50s. So they’re playing some good football.
“They’ll surprise a lot of sides and we can’t afford to be surprised on the weekend which I’m very sure we won’t be. It’s going to be a tough, tight game. It’s going to be close.”
The Suns have been boosted by the return to their lineup of captain Gary Ablett along with tireless ball-winner Dion Prestia.
Eade has also handed debuts to Matt Rosa and Ryan Davis in what will be veteran Michael Rischitelli’s 200th AFL appearance.
Unsurprisingly the Dons’ lineup is full of new faces with 10 players to make their first appearance for the club including AFL first-gamers Darcy Parish, Mitch Brown and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.