GOLD Coast's exciting batch of fresh faces gave a glimpse of where the club's future improvement could come from on Sunday night, producing a gritty display in the side's narrow five-point victory over the Western Bulldogs in the JLT Community Series.

A young Suns side boasting three of last year's top six NAB AFL Draft picks outbattled their vastly more experienced Dogs counterparts, overcoming the slippery and humid conditions at the Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay to win 11.11 (77) to 10.12 (72).

Highly rated young duo Jack Lukosius and Izak Rankine were lively in the forward line, while experienced recruits Anthony Miles, Jordan Murdoch and Sam Collins gave the Gold Coast a harder edge as the hosts narrowly fought off a strong Bulldogs outfit.

Fittingly, it was a fellow impressive first-round draft pick in second-year player Wil Powell who helped the Suns reclaim the lead late in the match with a nerveless set-shot.

For the Dogs, much loved midfielder Tom Liberatore made a successful comeback from almost a year out with an ACL injury, producing one of his side's best individual performances on his way to 26 disposals, eight clearances and a goal.

But despite having far more ball winners through the middle, the Dogs simply couldn't find enough to secure the result in a frustrating game.

Instead, it was the Suns who found most of the positives, particularly early in the match.

First, they came from Rankine. His clean pick up and superb dribbling goal from deep inside the forward pocket had the hosts on the board within 90 seconds.

Then it came from Lukosius. His exceptional delivery on the run assisted fellow new recruit Chris Burgess just moments later, as Gold Coast booted the first four goals of the match.

Burgess, who arrived from SANFL club West Adelaide via an AFL assistance package, had two majors inside the first 15 minutes to continue the signs of drastic improvement.

But the Bulldogs soon got the match back on their terms. Led by their prolific midfield group, the momentum of the game swung gradually.

The margin never stretched beyond two goals to either side after quarter time, with the tricky conditions not helping the spectacle as slips and fumbles became the norm.

For long stretches, it looked as though prolific duo Jack Macrae (40 disposals) and Lachie Hunter (32 disposals) would help will the Dogs over the line. But it proved not to be.

Despite Mitch Wallis starring in the forward line, kicking three goals to go with 24 touches, and Caleb Daniel winning plenty of the footy in a new role across half-back, the Suns were too strong and perhaps more eager than their opposition.

Brayden Fiorini (26 disposals) and Ben Ainsworth (21 disposals) produced notable performances in the midfield, while fellow youngsters Charlie Ballard, Powell and Jack Bowes were also impressive across the ground as the Suns recorded a satisfying victory.

What we learned
Gold Coast: The Suns are quickly building depth. While much of the focus was on their trio of top-six draft picks on Sunday night, the first-rounders already on the club's list showed their worth as well. Wil Powell looked dangerous rotating both through the forward line and in the midfield, Ben Ainsworth won plenty of the footy, while Jack Bowes and Callum Ah Chee also showed glimpses of their lofty potential. Not to mention Brayden Fiorini, himself a relatively early draft pick, who looks a gem out of the centre.

Western Bulldogs: The Dogs need a focal point up forward. For long periods, Mitch Wallis looked the side's most potent option on Sunday evening. He kicked three goals for the night, but it's unlikely Luke Beveridge will be looking to rely upon him as the team's deepest threat for much of the season. Billy Gowers, Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli and Josh Dunkley all spent significant periods forward, but the Dogs desperately need either Tom Boyd or Josh Schache (both unavailable against the Suns) to fill an important role in 2019.

New faces
Gold Coast: Izak Rankine and Jack Lukosius were exciting, particularly early, and look certainties to stake their claim for a round one debut. Ben King was exposed at times down back, but looks more of a long-term prospect. Anthony Miles and George Horlin-Smith gave the Suns experienced bodies in the midfield, while Jordan Murdoch provided dash and penetration out of defence. Chris Burgess played forward and kicked two early goals, presenting well on the lead. Fellow mature-aged recruit Sam Collins looks a solid option down back.

Western Bulldogs: Bailey Smith played just the second half but looks a natural footballer and someone who could play round one should he build his match fitness. Sam Lloyd was clever around the ball and adds the depth the Dogs want through their midfield. Taylor Duryea was quiet, playing mostly across half-back, while Will Hayes looked promising and won his fair share of the footy through the midfield.

Fantasy watch
Tom Liberatore (MID, $392,000) is a returning, cut-price gem. He showed no ill-effects of a year on the sidelines, winning 26 disposals that equated to 96 AFL Fantasy points on Sunday night.


Next up
Gold Coast heads to Lismore to face Sydney on Sunday afternoon, while the Western Bulldogs return to Ballarat to host St Kilda on Sunday evening.

GOLD COAST 4.2 5.6 8.8 11.11 (77)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.3 4.7 6.10 10.12 (72)

Gold Coast: Burgess 2, Sexton 2, MacPherson 2, Powell 2, Rankine, Wright, Bowes,
Western Bulldogs: Wallis 3, Suckling, Gowers, Liberatore, Richards, McLean, Hunter, Smith

Gold Coast: Fiorini, Miles, Harbrow, Martin, Ballard, Bowes, Powell
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Wallis, Hunter, Daniel, Liberatore, Bontempelli

Gold Coast: Lemmens (ankle)
Western Bulldogs: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Ryan, Brown, Gavine, Hosking

Official crowd: TBC at Great Barrier Reef Arena (Mackay)