Five players will run out for their first appearance in Gold Coast SUNS colours on Saturday afternoon, with off-season acquisitions Nick Malceski and Mitch Hallahan, as well as prized draftees Jarrod Garlett, Touk Miller and rookie revelation Adam Saad all confirmed to play against Melbourne at the MCG.
Not since the SUNS' first game back in round two of 2011 has there been so many debutants in one outing, highlighting the depth at the club heading into its fifth season.
Former Sydney Swans premiership defender Malceski’s impact on the young crop of players at Metricon Stadium has been lauded throughout his short tenure in southern Queensland. The 2014 All-Australian half-back has been a strong presence on the track throughout the pre-season and looks to be building a formidable partnership within the SUNS' back six.
Mitch Hallahan’s decision to leave Hawthorn after six games in four seasons has already been vindicated with the inside midfielder selected in Rodney Eade’s round one line up. After a slow start to the pre-season due to ankle surgery at the end of last season, Hallahan put together a couple of strong games during the pre-season with his performance in the opening NAB Challenge game against the Cats highlighting his value in the SUNS' engine room.
First round draftee Garlett arrived in Carrara with a reputation for preying on opposition ball carriers and he has demonstrated his ability to harass and chase the opposition throughout the NAB Challenge series. The West Australian’s clean ball use has stood out during the summer months at Metricon Stadium and he has looked capable of impacting the scoreboard as well.
When Scott Clayton and the recruiting team at the SUNS chose Touk Miller, they knew they were providing the football department with a young player who was determined to get the most out of his ability. Eade and the coaching staff have lauded the former Vic Metro and Calder Cannons captain for his character, with his ability to play his role for the team a standout during the NAB Challenge series. Like Garlett, Miller’s relentless harassment of the opposition has created scoring opportunities for the SUNS and his ability to always remain in the contest by holding his feet has stood out.
Adam Saad’s story has generated widespread interest in the last couple of months with the mature-aged rookie producing daring runs out of the back half throughout the NAB Challenge series. His precise left foot and blistering turn of speed make you wonder how Saad was overlooked in three National Draft’s before being plucked in last November’s rookie draft. But, he has quickly made up for lost time, first shining on the track during the hot and humid Gold Coast summer, and then with dash and polish during the pre-season competition.