GOLD Coast's No.3 draft pick Izak Rankine is in doubt for round one after suffering a hamstring injury in Sunday's 42-point JLT Community Series loss to Sydney in Lismore.
Rankine was on track for an opening round debut but limped off during the third term of the 19.9 (123) to 11.15 (81) loss.
The left hamstring was iced and he did not return.
With two weeks until the first match against St Kilda, depending on the severity of the setback, Rankine could still be an outside chance to recover.
SWANS TOO HOT Full match coverage and stats
It wasn't the only injury on a tough day for the Suns with reliable forward Aaron Young struggling from the field with an ankle problem.
It comes just a day after confirmation key defender Rory Thompson would miss the season after rupturing his ACL at training on Friday.
In contrast it was all good news for Sydney, with their top-10 draft pick – Swans Academy product Nick Blakey – putting in an eye-catching showing in the victory.
Playing at half-forward Blakey shone in stifling conditions, kicking two goals from his 10 disposals and showing the necessary composure to succeed at the top level.
After scores were level at quarter-time, Sydney put the game away with a nine-goal second term to take a 42-point lead at the main break.
Following a loss to neighbours Greater Western Sydney last week, it was a timely return to form for the Swans as they prepare for a round one date with the Western Bulldogs.
They played without a recognised ruckman for the game after Callum Sinclair's late withdrawal, but Aliir Aliir was outstanding as an understudy.
The key defender lost the hit-outs to towering Jarrod Witts (64-19), but his five clearances and 19 disposals helped Sydney manhandle the young Suns around the contest when the game was there to be won.
Luke Parker was best afield with 24 touches and three goals, while Josh Kennedy (30) and Tom Papley (26 and a goal) were also prolific.
To Gold Coast's credit, it never gave in despite the setbacks and were even with Sydney in the second half.
No.2 draft pick Jack Lukosius kicked two third quarter goals and was prominent in defence once moved back in the final quarter.
What we learned
Sydney: With superstar forward Lance Franklin in doubt for round one following groin surgery, the Swans chose a good time to show they could find some alternate avenues to goal. After struggling against the Giants last week, they manhandled the young Suns defence and finished with 13 goalkickers. Key targets Sam Reid and Jordan Dawson looked dangerous, kicking two each, while Will Hayward was also a good option going forward. Luke Parker (three goals) led a midfield avalanche – something John Longmire hopes will continue with or without Franklin.
Gold Coast: The Suns will learn plenty from their experienced rivals. Despite a huge advantage provided by Jarrod Witts in the ruck (64 hit-outs to 19), Gold Coast struggled to capitalise with clearances. Not only that, Sydney waltzed away with three goals in the match-defining second quarter directly from centre bounces. The new midfield group needs to combine better. In saying that, the Suns can be proud of their fight. Down by 42 at half-time, there was plenty of occasions in 2018 where they would have simply rolled over, but keeping the same margin until full-time is a credit to them.
Sydney: Academy selection Nick Blakey was outstanding and will be hard to tip out for round one. The No.10 draft pick had two goals and an assist from 10 disposals and his composure was a feature. Former Kangaroo Ryan Clarke (29 touches at 79 percent) would have been in the votes if it was a premiership match, while Jackson Thurlow fitted in nicely in defence after moving from Geelong. Draftees Justin McInerney (15 touches) and James Rowbottom (nine and one goal) were impressive, while Academy product Samuel Wicks played just a handful of minutes after coming on in the final term.
Gold Coast: It was a mixed bag for the prized top-10 draftees. Jack Lukosius put a quiet first half behind him to kick two goals in the third term and look composed when moved to defence in the fourth quarter. Izak Rankine suffered a hamstring injury after a booming 50m goal highlighted his first half, while Ben King was muscled out of some marking contests by stronger opponents. VFL recruit Sam Collins was excellent in an under-siege backline and is a perfect replacement for the injured Rory Thompson, while Jack Hombsch also looked solid in the back half. Chris Burgess came into the game more after half-time and Anthony Miles (14 disposals) was a little more quiet than he'd like.
Aliir Aliir (DEF, $503,000) Although it's unusual for a second ruckman to come from defence, Aliir showed enough against the Suns to suggest he could be considered for the role once the premiership matches begin.
Sydney starts its season against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on Saturday March 23 at 7.25pm (AEDT). Gold Coast opens its campaign at the same venue less than 24 hours later, taking on St Kilda at 1.10pm (AEDT) on the Sunday.
SYDNEY 5.3 14.5 17.6 19.9 (123)
GOLD COAST 5.3 7.5 10.10 11.15 (81)
Sydney: Parker 3, Blakey 2, Reid 2, Hayward 2, Dawson 2, Rowbottom, Ronke, Cunningham, Kennedy, Hewett, Papley, Heeney, Aliir
Gold Coast: Wright 2, Lukosius 2, Sexton 2, Swallow, Rankine, Ainsworth, Fiorini, Burgess
Sydney: Parker, Clarke, Kennedy, Mills, Papley, Hewett
Gold Coast: Miller, Fiorini, Wright, Witts, Swallow, Collins
Sydney: Sinclair replaced in selected side by Rowbottom; Lloyd (illness) replaced in selected side by Wicks.
Gold Coast: Rankine (hamstring), Young (ankle)
Official crowd: 4918 at Oakes Oval (Lismore)