It is somehow apt that Gary Ablett, Jr. returned from the shoulder injury that ended his 2014 season on Easter weekend. The man known to some as "The Son of God" 'resurrecting' his career over Easter? Perfect.
Perhaps the AFL could've had more foresight, though, and scheduled the game for the Sunday. Everyone knows that Jesus was still entombed on the Saturday of the first Easter weekend.
The worrying signs are not for Ablett, though. He is indisputably the best player in the competition and will find a way into most games he plays. What is worrying is the way in which his condition is handled by his team. It is time that Gold Coast accept that, regardless of whatever nickname bestowed upon his father, Gary Ablett is not the Messiah. He can not be depended upon to win every game off his own boot. With his shoulder still causing him obvious discomfort, other sides will be employing similar tactics to those of Melbourne at the weekend, and he will need some sort of protection.
The most disappointing aspect of the Suns' performance against the Dees was the lack of help offered to Ablett by his teammates. Whether it be physical intimidation to worry the Melbourne players out of their plan, or other players taking it upon themselves to try and play Ablett's role, the effort was severely lacking.
It is certain that Rodney Eade, being the coach that he is, will have a 'Plan B' for Ablett. That plan should involve playing him as a permanent forward. There has long been talk that to prolong his career Ablett would play more time in the forward line. There is no better time than now to try out that idea. As long as he is playing in the close-in atmosphere of the midfield, his shoulder will cop more of a battering. Given a bit of space in the forward line would not only provide him with some respite but create an almighty headache for the opposition. He is one of the best kicks for goal in the game, and can kick them from almost anywhere. He is also six feet tall and as strong as an ox. Could you imagine St. Kilda's Sean Dempster being able to stop him if he were to play there this weekend?
Taking Ablett out of the midfield would also give more responsibility to the younger Gold Coast players. No longer would they pass it off to Gary regardless of his circumstance. It would be up to the likes of David Swallow and Dion Prestia to get the hard ball and receive the handball.
You could argue that they were given that responsibility when Ablett was injured last year and failed. There is a difference between not having him in the midfield and not having him in the team at all, though. Knowing that they have a target of Ablett's calibre to kick to in the forward line would be a positive mindset for the Suns.
Thinking of Ablett's injury, I am reminded of Wayne Carey in 1997. In Round 1 of that year Carey injured his shoulder on a Thursday night against Melbourne. He missed half the home and away season and returned in a new role in defence. As Carey worked his way back into form, he gradually resumed his customary role at Centre Half Forward and totally dominated the Qualifying Final victory over Geelong.
Eade, Ablett and the Suns can learn from this episode. Ablett will recover from his injury and get back to his brilliant best but, in the meantime, a change of role could work wonders for the player and the team. I, for one, would delight in seeing Ablett with the forward 50 all to himself. I would delight in seeing him leading straight out to a pinpoint pass from Nick Malceski. I would delight in the look of absolute fright on the face of whichever defender has the unenviable job of opposing him.