Uncapped keys could anchor Suns
GOLD Coast's former co-captain's anchored either end of the ground with 254 games between them in 2018.
This year two men yet to make their AFL debuts stand on the cusp of replacing them.
Sam Collins and Chris Burgess look destined to fill the vacant key positions in the back and forward lines respectively vacated by Tom Lynch and Steven May, particularly now given Rory Thompson's season-ending ACL injury.
It comes after strong performances in the JLT Series, culminating in Sunday's 19.9 (123) to 11.15 (81) loss to Sydney at Oakes Oval in Lismore in front of 4918 thousands football fans.
"We weren't sold on who would play where, in particular the key defensive stocks," Suns coach Stuart Dew said post game.
"That's why we went for a bit of experience down (back) and getting Sammy Collins in and even Jack Hombsch from Port Adelaide.
"Chris presented well. We will have to sit down and it gets a bit harder getting 26 down to 22 (but) he has certainly mounted a fair case (for Round 1)."
Gold Coast's top draft pick Izak Rankine will undergo scans on his hamstring after injuring it in the second quarter of the loss while Aaron Young limped off in the third quarter with an ankle problem.
It halted a promising preseason campaign for exciting forward Rankine who looked destined for the club's season opener on March 24 against St Kilda in Melbourne.
"We (were) playing against a premiership contending list so would have been great to see him out there for the whole time," Dew said.
Pearce Hanley was among Gold Coast's best in his first game of the season after an injury interrupted 2018 that restricted him to just three games.
Hanley looked back to his damaging best, providing composure in defence and his trademark run and carry to get the Suns going forward.
"He is like a new recruit," Dew said.
"It was great to see him back up and going. It was a nice little tune-up for him in a fortnight's time."
Sydney took control from the source from the start in Lismore and picked the Suns apart with their ball movement and transition while a clunky Gold Coast struggled to find their targets inside 50m.
Gold Coast wrestled their way back into the game in the opening quarter, with a goal after the siren by Brayden Fiorini levelling scores going into the first break.
The Swans found rhythm again in the second, finding space through the corridor and shrugging off tackles before going to hold a 42-point lead at halftime in what proved to be the deciding quarter.
"It got away from us in the middle in the second. You can get some real momentum with the 6-6-6, there are not many safety nets," Dew said of the new rules.
"You have to find a way to fight through it.
"We actually gave them a couple and played into their hands a fair bit. Other than that we ran the game out and I thought we looked strong towards the back end."
Dew now has 14 days to decide on his best 22 with the likes of George Horlin-Smith, who rolled his ankle last week, still to come back into the side.