THE Gold Coast has been handed a brutal reality check by the Western Bulldogs, who engineered a stunning 70-point turnaround to claim a 21-point victory at Metricon Stadium.
The Suns threw the momentum of a brilliant first half and an undefeated JLT Series out the window when they allowed the Bulldogs to hammer home nine final-quarter goals, including two super goals, to run out 4.13.12 (126) to 0.16. (105) winners.
It was heading for a night of celebration for the Gold Coast, with former skipper Gary Ablett making a solid return in his first game since last July.
Ablett gathered 22 possessions and booted two goals alternating between half forward and the midfield.
He appeared to have the full range of movement in the shoulder that has been rebuilt twice in the past two years.
Skipper Tom Lynch epitomised the Suns' night. With his fifth goal, just before halftime, he put the Suns 49 points ahead of the reigning premiers.
However, he went without a possession in the third quarter and managed just one more goal late in the game.
Pearce Hanley again showed he was going to be a big pick-up for the Suns, winning eight clearances and 23 disposals.
The reigning premiers were close to full strength.
Jordan Roughead, Tory Dickson, Dale Morris and Joel Hamling (Fremantle) were the only players missing from the premiership side.
Captain Rob Murphy, defender Marcus Adams, Stewart Crameri and new recruit Travis Cloke were the new faces.
Ablett said the side could take positives out of the things they did well and he personally was happy with his first hitout.
He was particularly pleased to be heading into a premiership season with a game under his belt, having not played a pre-season game since 2014.
"It is so important, you can do all the training during pre-season but there is nothing like match fitness," Ablett said.
"I really enjoyed playing half my time in the midfield and half forward, but once I get some run in my legs hopefully I am more in the midfield.
"I felt my touch was OK, it was probably just more the run, I felt fatigued at times during the game."
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