WITH Christian Petracca dominating and Luke Jackson continuing his ascension to the game's elite, Melbourne was too good for Gold Coast on Saturday night, winning by 13 points at Metricon Stadium.
Petracca finished with a career-high 41 disposals, two more than he gathered in last year's Toyota AFL Grand Final, and thumped the ball inside 50 on 14 occasions to drive the Demons to a second straight win to start their premiership defence.
SUNS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats
After trailing by 15 points early, Melbourne got on top in the second quarter and kept the gritty Suns at bay all night to win 12.10 (82) to 10.9 (69).
And while Petracca and Clayton Oliver (34) did what everyone has become accustomed to, it was Jackson who turned heads in the first half when his team needed it most.
The third-year ruck/forward was magnificent, kicking two goals from his 21 disposals that included seven clearances.
Jackson was everywhere, spoiling in defence, kicking goals from stoppages and linking up superbly from centre bounces.
Gold Coast would lose no fans with its performance, backing up the win against West Coast in Perth six days earlier with another four quarters full of merit.
Touk Miller (38 disposals) and Noah Anderson (24 and two goals) led the midfield, while Sam Collins and Levi Casboult did well at either end.
Gold Coast created plenty of chances in the opening half – and all night - but Melbourne's pressure, both perceived and real, forced it into enough errors to take a 14-point lead to the main break.
Miller started like a house on fire in the opening quarter, his 17 disposals the equal-most in club history for a single term, to give the home team some early momentum.
But led by Jackson, the visitors slammed on six second-quarter goals to turn the game, giving their younger opponents a lesson in efficiency.
Melbourne got on top around the stoppages early in the second quarter to open up a 16-point lead, but a polished finish from Alex Davies and a class goal on the run from Anderson bought the Suns back into the match.
Kozzy lights up Metricon
With the third quarter meandering and Melbourne's lead at 16 points, Kysaiah Pickett produced a piece of magic that had to be watched twice to believe. With a ball spilling from a marking contest, the electric small forward swooped at top pace to gather left-handed and simultaneously split Noah Anderson and Wil Powell who approached from either side. Two steps later he was snapping across his body from the right forward pocket to split the sticks and give his team genuine breathing space.
Jackson jets to another level
While Max Gawn had his usual strong influence, it was third-year sensation Luke Jackson who first steadied the ship for Melbourne and then totally gave his team the momentum early in the match. He had nine disposals, including five clearances, in a dominant first quarter, capping it off with a classy left-footed stoppage goal. Just like the Grand Final, Jackson was magnificent at centre bounces and finished with 21 disposals and seven clearances to go with two goals.
Suns' battles inside 50
Around the contest Gold Coast gave Melbourne all it could handle, but going inside 50 was a different story. The Suns were missing Izak Rankine (corked quad) who was a late withdrawal, and while Jack Lukosius, Alex Sexton and Sam Flanders all battled to impact, the major problem came from the delivery further afield. Too often the Suns bombed long to out-numbered situations and kicked just 10 goals from 60 inside 50s. Figuring things out minus Ben King is still a work in progress.
GOLD COAST 2.3 6.5 8.7 10.9 (69)
MELBOURNE 3.1 9.1 12.5 12.10 (82)
Gold Coast: Anderson 2, Casboult 2, Lukosius 2, Chol, Davies, Fiorini, Sharp
Melbourne: Brown 2, Jackson 2, Pickett 2, Fritsch, Gawn, Harmes, McDonald, Oliver, Viney
Gold Coast: Miller, Anderson, Collins, Rowell, Casboult, Fiorini
Melbourne: Petracca, Jackson, Bowey, Oliver, Neale-Bullen, Gawn
Gold Coast: Nil
Gold Coast: Izak Rankine (quad) replaced by Sam Flanders
Gold Coast: Darcy Macpherson (unused)
St Kilda: Toby Bedford (unused)