Gold Coast smash Bombers as Ablett stars in return

Embattled Essendon's AFL campaign is off to a worrying start after a 61-point defeat by Gold Coast.

The Suns showed little mercy to the undermanned Bombers, who fielded a team including 10 players making their first appearance for the club, beating them 17.19 (121) to 9.6 (60) on Saturday at Metricon Stadium.

It's an ominous start to the year for the Bombers, who are battling to avoid the club's first wooden spoon since 1933 after 12 players were given season-long bans by WADA.

Forward Tom Lynch kicked four goals for the home team, but will face a nervous wait after a high-contact incident with Essendon's Mark Baguley in the second quarter, which is likely to attract the attention of the match review panel.

Saturday's match also marked an encouraging return to action for Suns captain Gary Ablett.

The two-time Brownlow Medallist, who didn't play a single minute during the Suns' pre-season, was one of 11 goal-kickers for the hosts and picked up 34 disposals as well as seven tackles.

Aaron Hall, Jack Martin and Sam Day were the other multiple goal kickers for the Suns, with two each.

The Bombers showed plenty of fight but simply couldn't match Gold Coast after the home team booted five goals to one in the opening term.

David Zaharakis was the stand-out for the visitors, kicking two goals and notching 33 disposals.

First-gamer Darcy Parish, who was one of three Bombers making their AFL debuts, also got through plenty of work.

Matthew Stokes bounced back from a shocking miss in the third quarter to finish with three majors for Essendon.