THEY might be without Patrick Dangerfield this season, but Adelaide showed they would be no pushovers, tuning up for round one with a 25-point win over Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Friday night.
After a tight first half, the Crows split the game wide open in the third quarter, kicking seven goals to three – including two supergoals – to open up a match-winning cushion.
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They Suns breathed life into the contest with the first three goals of the last term, but Adelaide steadied in the greasy conditions and were deserving 3.12.10 (109) to 0.11.18 (84) winners.
Even without Dangerfield, the Crows' midfield depth looks impressive, with ever-reliable Scott Thompson collecting 30 disposals, Matt Crouch 28 and Richard Douglas 23.
The half-back line repelled Gold Coast attacks and launched attacking raid after attacking raid, led by the precise Brodie Smith (25) and dashing Rory Laird (28).
"We struggled at times, but to Gold Coast's credit they put some real pressure on around the ball and probably forced us into a bit of overuse at times," Adelaide coach Don Pyke said.
"But then I thought in the third quarter we came out and we won our share and we started to use the ball more effectively and a bit smarter.
"There's some guys who have had some good pre-seasons - Matty Crouch has stepped up through the midfield and Jarryd Lyons tonight put his case forward as well, which is good to see."
While Gold Coast competed hard, winning the contested possession count 152-140, the Suns were badly beaten once the ball left congestion.
Adelaide used the ball better and found space at will, winning the disposal count 429-346.
Paul Seedsman was all class from a wing and showed he would be an excellent acquisition after transferring from Collingwood in the off-season, while first round draft pick Wayne Milera showed a touch of class with his two goals.
Both teams fielded strong outfits, but it was clear the Suns missed their first choice midfield, with Gary Ablett, Dion Prestia, David Swallow, Jaeger O'Meara and Jesse Lonergan all watching from the grandstands.
They couldn't quite foot it with Adelaide's run and that was the difference in the end.
"I think they handled the conditions a bit better than we did," Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade said.
"It was really slippery and I don't think people appreciate that when it's so humid, it was like a cake of soap.
"It was a good hit-out against a quality side. I was pleased with it.
"We won contested ball, won clearances, we just didn't use the ball as well as they did, they were a bit more polished than we were."
Gold Coast wasted chances early and were made to pay, with Peter Wright a first quarter culprit and usually reliable Tom Lynch also hesitating and being run down from behind by Jake Lever when an open goal beckoned.
Aaron Hall stood up in the depleted midfield, finishing with 30 disposals and two goals.
Adam Saad blanketed Eddie Betts, keeping the All Australian goalless, with one memorable tackle in the goalsquare preventing a certain goal
WHAT WE LEARNED
Gold Coast: Rodney Eade still has some selection headaches ahead of round one. Neither Sam Day or Peter Wright grasped the spot available alongside Tom Lynch in the forward line. For the third straight pre-season match, Wright looked more dangerous in the air – and may have his nose in front - and Day more of a defensive presence once it hit the ground. Running defender Adam Saad showed he could be a lock-down option this season, keeping Eddie Betts to just eight disposals.
Adelaide: The Crows will be a force again this year despite the off-season loss of Patrick Dangerfield. Their midfield looks even and deep, with Matt Crouch adding another 28 disposals to his impressive NAB Challenge. While usual stars Rory Sloane (20) and Betts (eight) were relatively quiet, lesser lights Jarryd Lyons (22) Luke Brown (23) and hulking Cam Ellis-Yolman (21) took lead roles.
Gold Coast: Matt Rosa impressed for the second time this pre-season, racking up 22 disposals from a wing. The former Eagle was composed and an even contributor across four quarters. First round draft pick Callum Ah Chee made a strong claim to be included in the opening round, snapping cleverly in the second quarter to break a Suns goal drought and finish with nine disposals. Rookies Ryan Davis and Tom Keough were playing for a senior elevation and both pressed their claims. Davis was busy but couldn't make the most of his opportunities, kicking just one goal from four good chances, while Keough was courageous and polished in the backline.
Adelaide: No.11 draft pick Wayne Milera would have put a smile on Crows fans' faces. On a greasy night, the young South Australian kicked truly from two tough set shots – one in the first quarter and one in the third - and was unlucky to hit the post with another from 50m out on the boundary line. Collingwood recruit Paul Seedsman was excellent from a wing, using the ball with precision in his one goal, 23-disposal showing, while Dean Gore – recruited from Geelong as part of the Dangerfield trade – played the second half and finished with four touches
NEXT UP Gold Coast starts its 2016 campaign against Essendon on March 26 at Metricon Stadium. Although the Suns will be favoured to win, they lost against Melbourne in the corresponding fixture last year when they were heavily fancied. Adelaide kicks off its season against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium. The teams met in the opening round last year with the Crows thumping the Kangaroos.
GOLD COAST 0.1.6 0.4.12 0.7.14 0.11.18 (84)
ADELAIDE 0.3.2 1.4.5 3.9.8 3.12.10 (109)
Gold Coast: Nil
Adelaide: Jenkins, Lyons, Walker
Gold Coast: Hall 2, Ah Chee, Rischitelli, Miller, McKenzie, Martin, Lynch, Keough, Harbrow, Davis
Adelaide: Milera 2, Walker 2, McGovern 2, Gore, Jenkins, Ellis-Yolmen, Seedsman, Lyons, Douglas
Gold Coast: Hall, Miller, Saad, May, Rischitelli, Rosa
Adelaide: Crouch, Thompson, Jacobs, Talia, Smith, Seedsman
Gold Coast: Kolodjashnij (calf) omitted from original squad
Umpires: McInerney, Hay, Hosking
Official crowd: 4460 at Metricon Stadium