LIFE without Ben King has started well for Gold Coast, upsetting Port Adelaide by 21 points at Metricon Stadium on Friday afternoon on the back of three goals from free agent recruit Mabior Chol.
Chol and Josh Corbett (two goals) offered plenty in a forward line that will be without King for the entire 2022 season following his ruptured ACL a few weeks ago.
They weren't the only ones to impress in the 11.10 (76) to 6.19 (55) victory, with one-gamer Alex Davies (two goals) putting his hand up for a round one berth, and Izak Rankine in blistering touch.
It was a victory that had plenty of contributors and avenues to goal.
On a dirty day for Port, they not only lost the match, but Sam Powell-Pepper (hamstring) and Scott Lycett (ankle) both failed to see out the game with injuries.
They squandered plenty of chances around goal, but in truth were outplayed by the Suns in slippery conditions.
While Chol, whose best effort came with a fourth quarter pack mark and goal, and Corbett cashed in around goal, it was the midfield that really impressed against Travis Boak, Brownlow medallist Ollie Wines and young star Zak Butters.
Aside from All-Australian Touk Miller, Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell were influential, while Brayden Fiorini also got plenty of ball.
Davies made the most of his opportunity, throwing himself into contests against bigger bodies and finishing superbly around goal, including a 50m bomb on the quarter-time siren.
Davies played one game last season, in the final round, but looks right at home at senior level.
Lachie Weller and Jeremy Sharp also showed plenty of pace for the victors.
With Hugh Greenwood (North Melbourne) and Will Brodie (Fremantle) both departing in the off-season, there's a vacancy in Gold Coast's midfield that Alex Davies seems desperate to fill. While the Suns Academy product spent most of his time at half-forward, with little stints in the middle, he could not have been more impressed with his clean hands, good skills and defensive pressure. On the other side, Port would also be pleased with the outing of first round draft pick Josh Sinn. The smooth-running left-footer had plenty of disposals early in the match and finished off his work with a goal in the final quarter.
There's no doubt about the class of Zak Butters and after a pre-season promise of playing him on-ball more often, Port Adelaide delivered, giving him a large chunk of time around the contest. Butters was solid without being spectacular and will no doubt be better for the run. Gold Coast looked to give itself more run from defence by moving Lachie Weller from the wing to half-back, and the move paid off handsomely. Weller was magnificent with his run-and-carry and penetrating kicking and should be a lock there for the start of the season.
There's a couple of major concerns for Port Adelaide. Sam Powell-Pepper left the field in the second quarter with a left hamstring injury, while Scott Lycett was off early in the third with a tweaked ankle. Connor Rozee (ankle) was taken off at half-time as a precaution, but the club think he's generally OK. Powell-Pepper immediately grabbed for the back of his leg and was assessed by doctors on the boundary line with the bad news coming back shortly after. Lycett was being tackled, tried to jump to give a handball and landed awkwardly.
If you're looking for some value, former No.1 draft pick Matt Rowell might be your man. Rowell (MID, $464,000) was busy for most of the day against Port, and although he didn't kick any goals, was at the bottom of most packs and got his fair share of disposals. Keep an eye on him against Geelong next weekend as he continues an uninterrupted pre-season.
GOLD COAST 6.2 8.5 10.8 11.10 (76)
PORT ADELAIDE 1.5 1.10 3.13 6.19 (55)
Gold Coast: Chol 3, Corbett 2, Davies 2, Sharp 2, Rankine, Sexton
Port Adelaide: Gray 2, Sinn, Powell-Pepper, Mayes, Amon