Gold Coast forward Alex Sexton has earned the respect of his coach Stuart Dew for his club-first response to twice being axed by the Suns last year.
Sexton warmed up for next week's round one clash with West Coast in Perth by kicking six goals in Monday's AFL pre-season match against Brisbane at Metricon Stadium.
While the 27-year-old's bag wasn't enough to prevent the Suns slipping to a 28-point loss to their Queensland rivals, it was a big positive for Dew to take from the game.
Sexton was the Suns' leading goalkicker in 2018 and 2019 and he played every game in both those seasons, but he was twice left out by Dew in a disappointing 2020 where he kicked just 19 goals in 14 games.
Dew however said the 133-gamer's response had been exactly what he would have hoped for.
"He's a first class clubman and amongst the group, he never wavered," Dew said.
"His style is always upbeat and positive.
"We know his intention is always team but sometimes, at different times in a guy's career, it doesn't hurt to go back and get a bit of a live kill in the reserves and get a bit of confidence.
"No one likes doing it - I certainly didn't - but sometimes you need it, and it's hard at the time, but just a little reset doesn't hurt."
The Suns also kept young gun Matt Rowell in the game across the four quarters against Brisbane, confirming the 19-year-old will be good to make his much-anticipated AFL return against the Eagles.
Fellow youngster Izak Rankine is also expected to feature in the March 21 game at Optus Stadium despite missing Monday's hit-out with an ankle knock.
"We'll get him up and going this week and have a bit of a look but take it pretty slow and then look to ramp him up to head to Perth," Dew said.
Australian Associated Press