Thursday afternoon’s match simulation at Austworld Centre Oval against Essendon was the first time Gold Coast’s newest recruits had the chance to pull on the red and gold against AFL opposition.
The match was played over five periods, with 37 players getting a run for the SUNS at some stage during the match.
Here’s how our new faces fared:
It was the perfect opportunity for the 18-year-old to show his Round 1 credentials, and Humphrey didn’t disappoint. Playing predominately in the forward half, the SUNS’ pick 6 looked comfortable at the level and showed the power and explosiveness that set him apart as a top draft prospect. Kicking into the breeze in the first period, Humphrey showed off his penetrating boot with a 50m drop punt that was punched back into play from the goal-line, but resulted in a stunning Sam Flanders volley goal. A mid/forward hybrid, Humphrey offers something different to the club’s mix and his put his name right in contention for a Round 1 berth.
Deployed off half-back for the first three periods, Long found plenty of the footy in his first hitout in SUNS colours. The 25-year-old looked assured behind the ball and showed some examples of the grit and hardness that had him so highly desired by SUNS recruiters. After a strong pre-season and finally having stability in his preferred position on the ground, Long looks set to be an important cog in the SUNS backline in 2023.
Berry played as a small forward for most of the day and was frantic with his forward pressure when the ball was in his area. The 22-year-old had some great moments and earned the praise of the coaches for his tackling and intensity inside 50. Berry is competing for a Round 1 spot with similar types in the SUNS forward line but did his chances no harm with a consistent performance.
Johnston came on after half-time and brought pace and line-breaking ability off half-back. The highlight of his day was a sublime chasedown tackle to pin Jye Menzie holding the ball in the SUNS defensive 50. Johnston was able to get his hands on the footy often in the fifth period and was able to showcase his exquisite kicking skills.
Blakely got his start in the fourth period and played as an inside midfielder for the final two periods. Linking up with the other midfielders, Blakely was able to find some of the ball and use his penetrating boot to drive inside 50. He will be facing some tough competition to break into the best 22 and will be doing everything possible to put his name forward for selection.
Stein played as a lockdown defender in the second half and read the ball well. The 192cm backman didn’t lose many one-on-one contests and provided some leadership to a younger SUNS defence in the second half. He’ll look to continue to build in the coming weeks and adds flexibility to the SUNS defensive stocks.
McLaughlin has made a strong first impression since becoming the latest player to join the SUNS list through the SSP. Playing as a forward in the second half, he was able to get his hands on the football and connect well with teammates. It was McLaughlin’s first time playing with his new teammates against real opposition so he will take plenty of confidence from the hit-out into the upcoming season.