Matt Rowell is every bit as good as advertised and is firming as a certain round one lock following a terrific showing for Gold Coast in a dominant Marsh Community Series victory over Geelong on Saturday night.
Rowell, the No.1 pick from the 2019 NAB AFL Draft, collected 20 disposals (15 contested) and looked right at home in his first official match against mature midfield bodies.
The 18-year-old gathered seven disposals in the first quarter, seven in the second, three in the third and three in the fourth as his minutes decreased in a polished performance.
He was instrumental in the new-look SUNS 17.20 (122) to 7.12 (54) victory against a Cats team that was well off the pace.
In slippery conditions at Metricon Stadium, Rowell kept his feet, was clean with his hands and set up a goal for fellow draftee Connor Budarick with a clever tap-on in the second term.
At one first-quarter centre bounce he lined up against Patrick Dangerfield, watched a teammate win the clearance before pushing off the Cats superstar to receive the handball and burst clear to pump the ball inside 50. It was a glimpse into Gold Coast's future.
Rowell was not the only youngster to impress, with Budarick finding his feet in the backline, and No.2 pick Noah Anderson (14) working into the game well after half-time.
Anderson slotted an exceptional checkside goal on the run in the third quarter, while another draftee – wingman Jeremy Sharp – continued the party with a 50m set shot bomb.
Two-time Richmond premiership player Brandon Ellis (22) added pace to a team that looked considerably quicker than 2019.
Alex Sexton (six goals) dined out on the work of his midfielders with some typically opportunistic finishing, while Darcy Macpherson (31 touches and six tackles) was arguably best afield.
It was a rough night for Geelong, with former Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett (eight touches) rarely sighted in what was likely to be his last game at Metricon Stadium.
Dangerfield spent most of his time forward, while Tom Atkins battled hard in a beaten midfield.
Gold Coast: Aside from Rowell, Ellis, Budarick and Anderson, there was plenty of other first-time Suns that impressed. Jeremy Sharpe came on only after half-time but made the most of his opportunity, gathering nine disposals, four marks and a long-range goal from the wing. The teenage West Australian is a fringe first round candidate, but looked at home at the top level. Former Crow Hugh Greenwood spent most of his time onball and excelled, collecting 25 touches and laying nine tackles. Zac Smith also made an impact in his first game back in Suns colours, deputising superbly in the absence of skipper Jarrod Witts to finish with 28 hit-outs and five clearances from his 12 disposals.
Hugh Greenwood (MID/FWD, $581,000) costs a bit, but against the Cats he showed he's up to it. Playing mainly in the middle, the former Adelaide tough-nut tallied 25 touches and just as importantly added nine tackles. He was also energetic in his time forward.
Gold Coast travels to Adelaide to play the Crows at Flinders University Stadium on Friday, March 6 at 4.20pm (ACST).
GOLD COAST 3.2 7.9 12.15 17.20 (122)
GEELONG 1.5 3.7 4.10 7.12 (54)
Gold Coast: Sexton 6, King 2, Day 2, Sharp, Anderson, Ainsworth, Lemmens, Wright, Swallow, Budarick
Geelong: Rohan 3, Ratugolea, Atkins, Parson, Miers
Gold Coast: Macpherson, Sexton, Ainsworth, Brodie, Bowes, Miller, Rowell
Geelong: Atkins, Tuohy, Narkle, Clark
Gold Coast: Nil
Crowd: 5903 at Metricon Stadium