A bullish Gold Coast plan to make the most of their “second chance at a first impression” when they host West Coast in AFL’s return to Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
The Suns’ encouraging pre-season form disintegrated in a first-round spanking from Port Adelaide in March.
But after missing that game with injury, veteran Pearce Hanley (calf) is among many to have benefited from nearly three months off since.
He returns along with potent forward Alex Sexton and experienced defender Jarrod Harbrow to offset the loss of David Swallow (suspension) and Richmond recruit Brandon Ellis (calf).
Charlie Ballard and Wil Powell will also return from injury, while Izak Rankine’s long-awaited debut remains on hold after a hamstring tweak.
Snapping a 19-game losing streak will be a tall order against short-priced favourites the Eagles in their first game since joining the AFL’s Gold Coast hub.
Hanley was plucky when asked to assess his side’s hopes.
“Absolutely we’re going to be competitive, going out to win,” the Irishman said.
“It’s a second chance at first impressions and we’re looking to take it.
“The last three or four weeks at training has been gold and I’ve loved being around the boys again.”
It’s the form that saw the Suns account for Geelong and Adelaide in the pre-season that Eagles coach Adam Simpson is wary of though.
“They should take a lot of confidence out of their Marsh (pre-season) series,” he said.
“I know they were disappointed with themselves in round one.
“But the evidence in the last three games they’ve played … the previous two they were really good, especially in the contest.
“We’re fully aware of their talent and what they’re capable of.”
Non-selected squad members will also stretch their legs in a Saturday morning scratch match, although with only 12 Eagles available the hosts may have to lend them some players.
“I think we’ve got 12 available and they’ve got 22, so we’re going to have to borrow a couple,” Simpson said.
“I don’t even know what they’re going to wear … I’m assuming they don’t want to wear West Coast uniforms, so they might wear bibs.”