Gold Coast SUNS players had their first true hitout of the 2016 pre-season with an intraclub match on Saturday morning at Metricon Stadium.
With AFL umpires overseeing proceedings and senior coach Rodney Eade barking instructions from the wing, the intensity was raised with NAB Challenge and round one berths still up for grabs.
The players participating didn’t disappoint, with many emerging SUNS putting their hands up to be a part of Eade’s best 22. With the likes of Gary Ablett, Tom Lynch, Dion Prestia and David Swallow sitting on the sidelines, the younger brigade seized the opportunity to impress the coaching staff as well as the hundreds of fans in attendance.
“I think there’s always a lot of positives to take out of that,” senior coach Rodney Eade told reporters following the intraclub match.
“Our ball movement was maybe a bit more fluent, we thought our defensive shape at times was a lot better so just those sorts of things. I think there’s still a bit of work to do but it’s pleasing there was some improvement.”
Touk Miller showed he deserves to be a part of the permanent midfield rotation in 2016 with a solid four-quarter performance, while Alex Sexton didn’t stop running all day, snapping a classy goal around his body, highlight his raw talent.
READ: Miller pushing to cement midfield role
Jarrod Garlett was another youngster to impress, really coming into the game after a slow start. His third quarter was particularly impressive, as was draftee Brayden Fiorini’s with the Northern Knights product looking right at home at the centre bounce during the 20-minute stanza.
Aaron Hall picked up where he left off in 2015, racking up plenty of possessions to go with a couple of goals, while workhorses Michael Rischitelli and Matt Shaw also performed admirably in the midfield and on the wings. In the defensive half, Steven May highlighted why he was elevated to vice-captain this season, marshalling his troops and being vocal at every opportunity.
Arguably the biggest positive to come from the game was the performance of No. 8 draft pick Callum Ah Chee. The 18-year-old booted two goals for Gold Coast Red but showed a real x-factor for the duration of the contest, looking lively every time he got near the Sherrin and attacking the footy with vigour at every opportunity.
The South Fremantle product demonstrated this on multiple occasions, with veteran defender Nick Malceski on the receiving end of a charging Ah Chee in a marking contest.
READ: Loving every bit of it: Ah Chee
“He was good,” Eade said when quizzed about Ah Chee’s performance.
“He’s a terrific kid. He’s still got a fair bit to learn and some areas to work on but certainly his talent I don’t think that’s questioned, but the pleasing thing was his work rate and his courage in the contest.”
Sam Day kicked three first-half goals but was well held by Rory Thompson after the break, while the enthralling ruck battle between Dan Currie and Tom Nicholls didn’t disappoint as both push to be a part of the round one side.
The Gold Coast Red team led at every change to take out a 35-point win, but the result was insignificant with Eade shifting players from one side to the other regularly as he tested out various matchups and structures on the day.
Gold Coast Red 6.1 11.1 13.3 15.3 (93)
Gold Coast White 2.1 5.2 6.5 8.10 (58)
Red: Day, Brooksby 3; Ah Chee, Sexton, Hallahan 2; Shaw, Z. Saad, Garlett
White: Hall, Wright, Miller 2; MacPherson, Cameron