ESSENDON'S small forward problems might be a thing of the past after the Bombers' little men lit up their match simulation against Gold Coast on Thursday.
And top-10 draft pick Bailey Humphrey pushed his claim for a round one debut with a strong showing for the SUNS at Carrara's Austworld Centre Oval.
Both teams were missing a handful of regular players but, in blustery conditions that made ball movement difficult, put on an entertaining contest.
Essendon won 11.14 (80) to 11.9 (75) in a match that included five periods of play.
Humphrey, taken with pick No.6 in last year's NAB AFL Draft, was fantastic for Gold Coast and looked right at home against the mature bodies, making good decisions in tight spaces and willingly throwing his body around.
Coach Stuart Dew will find it difficult to leave him out of the opening round against Sydney in three weeks.
Former No.11 pick Sam Flanders also continued a fine pre-season, kicking two early goals and being highly involved when he spent time onball.
Former Melbourne forward Sam Weideman kicked an early goal and presented well in Essendon's forward line, while on the opposition, Ben Long also impressed in his first game after moving from St Kilda.
Humphrey could hardly have done more to impress. Although Gold Coast has plenty of forward line options, he would look right at home with a round one debut. Elijah Hollands played largely on a wing and had some nice moments, as did Alex Davies who spent plenty of time in the midfield.
After training there all pre-season, Charlie Constable looked good as a half-back for Gold Coast. Although the ball was difficult to move in the windy conditions, Constable had some nice touches in the back half and looks a reliable option after spending most of his career in the midfield. Nick Holman, usually a small forward, was used on a wing during much of the first half. Essendon decided to play 193cm Kaine Baldwin in defence. Baldwin was matched up against Levi Casboult and Mabior Chol at various times and did a good job.
No major concerns for either team, although Essendon ruckman Nick Bryan left the field after the final siren with his ankle iced up. The Bombers were missing half a dozen of their best players, including Jake Stringer, Nik Cox, Matt Guelfi and No.5 draft pick Elijah Tsatas, while the SUNS were without Touk Miller, Brandon Ellis, Sam Collins, Lachie Weller and Wil Powell.
Flanders (MID/FWD, $508,000) all-but inked his name in for a round one berth with two early goals and a strong outing. He mixed his time between roles and is worth watching in next week's game against Greater Western Sydney.