IT TOOK less than one quarter for Gold Coast's injury curse to return in 2017, with Sam Day suffering a horrific hip injury in Sunday's 24-point JLT Community Series win over the Brisbane Lions.
It could cost the versatile key-position player his season.
Day was contesting a ball with former Collingwood defender Jack Frost late in the first term when his right foot stuck in the turf.
He immediately crumpled to the ground in agony, clutching high up on his leg.
The 24-year-old was stretchered off in obvious pain, inhaling pain-relieving medication through the doctor's green whistle.
He was taken to hospital for scans after his dislocated right hip was put back in place.
Coach Rodney Eade was not optimistic about Day's prospect post-match.
"They're (doctors) hoping it's not the season, but the odds are it probably is, so just fingers crossed for him," Eade said.
"I don't think anyone else in the history of the game has had what he's had, a dislocated hip."
It was a sour start to a season that kicked off with a strong 0.11.15 (81) to 1.7.6 (57) win at Mermaid Waters' Kombumerri Park.
Pearce Hanley was excellent against his former club, fitting in nicely across half-back and the midfield, tallying 19 disposals.
He'll have bragging rights over former housemate Claye Beams after baulking the Lions defender in the third term and finishing with a classy goal from 25m.
David Swallow also returned strongly after 18 months on the sidelines with persistent knee problems, playing three quarters before sitting out the last.
The former No.1 draft pick played on a wing and half-back and finished with 15 disposals, showing his usual fearless play.
Aaron Hall was a midfield spark (33 disposals), while Touk Miller (24) played his usual solid game.
The Lions were super competitive in the first half, trailing by just two points, and despite being outscored six goals to three in the second, never dropped their heads.
Rohan Bewick (28 disposals) was excellent on a wing, while Dayne Zorko (17 touches and 11 tackles) and stand-in skipper Ryan Lester (17 and two goals) battled hard.
Coach Chris Fagan said there was plenty to improve on, but was generally pleased with his first game in charge.
"I thought for two-and-a-half quarters we were really competitive and then we lost our balance around contested situations," he said.
"We had too many players getting in after the footy and not handling it cleanly, it'd pop up and they got us on the outside with their ball use.
"We'll pick the positives out, we'll learn a bit from the game and come up against the premiers in the next game."
No.3 draft pick Hugh McCluggage showed glimpses of his enormous talent, finishing with 14 disposals and having that extra split-second to make his decisions.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Gold Coast: The Suns are treading on thin ice with their key talls after Day's injury. It leaves them with just Steven May and Rory Thompson down back and Tom Lynch and Peter Wright as the tall targets forward. Jack Leslie is in the wings, but there's not much room to manoeuvre. The midfield stocks look terrific though, with Hanley slotting in nicely, Swallow returning strongly and a bloke named Gary Ablett waiting in the wings.
Brisbane Lions: It's hard to tell from just one hitout, with a few players missing and others playing limited minutes, but the Lions looked very organised in their first match under new coach Chris Fagan. They moved the ball nicely at times – although missing the final target cost them dearly – and there was no sign of the paper-thin transition defence that cost them so often in 2016. It's only one match, though.
Gold Coast: Against his former club, Hanley showed all the poise and class the Suns hoped for, while Barlow came into the game the longer it went, finishing with 19 disposals. Ruckman Jarrod Witts played one half before splitting the webbing in his hand and contested well at the stoppages but was quiet around the ground. Draftees Jack Bowes, Ben Ainsworth and Will Brodie all had their moments without ever getting right into the game. Bowes looked polished, with his final-term pass on the left foot to set up a Touk Miller goal all class. Brodie had 11 disposals and Ainsworth roved nicely for a third-quarter goal.
Brisbane Lions: The longer the game went, the better Hugh McCluggage got. The No.3 draft pick played in a few different positions and his 14 touches (eight contested) were generally well used, aside from one errant kick inside 50 early on. He looks a round one lock. Former Magpie defender Frost was excellent at the back and looks an ideal replacement for retired Daniel Merrett. He blotted his game by getting reported for a sling tackle on Brandon Matera. Jake Barrett (10 disposals) and Lions Academy draftee Jacob Allison (seven touches in one half) were quiet.
The Suns head north to the regional Queensland town of Mackay next Sunday to take on Essendon, who lost narrowly against Collingwood first-up. The Lions have a little longer to wait for their second JLT game, playing the Western Bulldogs on March 2 at Etihad Stadium.
GOLD COAST 0.3.4 0.5.8 0.9.10 0.11.15 (81)
BRISBANE LIONS 0.3.1 1.4.3 1.5.6 1.7.6 (57)
Gold Coast: Nil
Brisbane Lions: Freeman
Gold Coast: Grant 3, Ainsworth, Joyce, Lynch, Schoenfeld, Hanley, Barlow, Kolodjashnij, Miller
Brisbane Lions: Lester 2, Martin 2, Schache, Robinson, Robertson
Gold Coast: Hall, Hanley, Miller, Thompson, Barlow
Brisbane Lions: Bewick, Zorko, Lester, Gardiner, Taylor
Gold Coast: Day (hip)
Brisbane Lions: Nil
Reports: Jack Frost (BL) reported in the third quarter for rough conduct on Brandon Matera.
Umpires: Hauseen, Mitchell, Kamolins, Harris.
Official crowd: 2174 at Kombumerri Park (Mermaid Waters)