Will Hayward and Isaac Heeney celebrate a goal during the R1 match between Sydney and Gold Coast at Heritage Bank Stadium on March 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

IF SYDNEY has any lingering effects from last year's Grand Final hammering, it didn't show it on Saturday night, thumping Gold Coast by 49 points at Heritage Bank Stadium.

The Swans could hardly have been more impressive in the 16.14 (110) to 9.7 (61) triumph, kicking the game's first five goals and completely shutting the Suns out of the match.

They had 12 individual goalkickers and nine players gathered 20 disposals or more in the ultimate team performance.

SUNS v SWANS Full match coverage and stats

The only question mark over the outing could come for their champion forward Lance Franklin who appeared to collect Sam Collins high in the final quarter. 


Dane Rampe was incredible in defence, making the wet ball - courtesy of extremely humid conditions - look dry, with his 25 disposals and 12 intercepts.

Sydney's midfield outplayed its opponents as Chad Warner (match-high 30 touches and 14 score involvements) picked up from where he left off last year, and Luke Parker (25), Errol Gulden (24) and wingman Dylan Stephens (27) all had big impacts.


They forced Gold Coast into turnover after turnover and feasted on the counterattack, leading by 21 points at quarter-time, 29 at the half and 46 at the final change.

The Suns battled, but were reactive early and struggled to move the ball with any fluency against the well-organised Swans.

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Jarrod Witts (25 and 10 clearances) was their best player, while Matt Rowell (28) was also tireless.


Sydney was all over the hosts in the opening quarter, kicking the first five goals to set up a match-winning advantage.

Whether it was at the contest or away from it, the Swans jumpers outnumbered their Suns counterparts and ensured the ball was camped inside their forward 50.

Franklin kicked two goals inside the first four minutes and set up another for Stephens as Sydney mounted a 33-point lead that looked like growing even further.


However, with Rowell, Noah Anderson and Touk Miller arresting the momentum, Gold Coast kicked two late goals to breathe life into its chances.

After an early goal to David Swallow in the second term reduced the margin to 14 points, the visitors again assumed control.

Rampe was magnificent in defence, patrolling any Gold Coast forward forays with his expert positioning leading to 10 intercepts (of his 20 disposals) by half-time.

First quarter avalanche
The Swans dominated most of the night, but the match was set up with a rollicking first quarter. You couldn't pick a list of good players because they were all good, from the midfield that dominated clearances to the defence that intercepted everything to the forward line that kicked five quick goals. Sydney meant business with their physicality and skill. Two quick goals to Franklin, a checkside by Papley, a fourth to Stephens and a fifth to McDonald. They led the disposal count (129-78), inside 50s (19-7) and uncontested possessions (80-39) and could have led by more than 21 at the first change.

A little piece of Papley magic
When you turn up to watch Tom Papley at the footy, you're usually guaranteed excitement, and the Swans dynamo didn't disappoint again. In the opening seconds of the third quarter and with the ball spilling free just forward of centre, Papley kicked it off the ground across his body like a soccer cross into the path of Chad Warner. Warner scooped it up and handballed back to Papley at top pace for the speedy midfielder to bang the goal from 50m. It was a marvellous finish to a brilliant passage of play.


Return of the King
After an 18-month absence from the AFL following a knee reconstruction, Gold Coast forward Ben King made his long-awaited return. With the Suns battling to get the ball forward early on, he was starved of opportunities in the slippery conditions. However, the 22-year-old provided one highlight in the third term when he got on the end of a Jack Lukosius pass and went back to slot a goal from close to the boundary line. King finished with five disposals, including a nice assist for Ben Ainsworth.


GOLD COAST             2.1       3.2       6.4       9.7 (61)
SYDNEY         5.4       7.7       13.10  16.14 (110)

Gold Coast:
 Flanders 2, Ainsworth 2, Swallow, King, Holman, Jeffrey, Anderson
Sydney: Papley 2, Franklin 2, McDonald 2, Cunningham 2, Stephens, Mills, McLean, Lloyd, Heeney, Hayward, Gulden, Florent 

Gold Coast:
 Witts, Rowell, Long, Ainsworth
Sydney: Rampe, Warner, Stephens, Papley, Gulden, Lloyd

Gold Coast:
 Collins (head)
Sydney: Nil

Gold Coast: Brayden Fiorini (replaced Levi Casboult in the third quarter)
Sydney: Matt Roberts (replaced Peter Ladhams in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 13,648 at Heritage Bank Stadium