Gary Ablett is now the wrong side of 30 but new Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade believes the best days are ahead of the two-time Brownlow Medallist.
On his first day overseeing his full Suns squad, Eade had no doubt Ablett would improve in the twilight seasons of his glittering AFL career.
The experienced former Sydney and Western Bulldogs coach likened the Gold Coast skipper to full-forward great Tony Lockett who thrived in his latter days with the Swans.
“I was fortunate enough to coach Tony Lockett at 29,” Eade said. “It’s not so much better (form) compared to their previous best, but they learn new ways, they change their game as they’re getting older and their body can’t do what it used to do.
“Gary, certainly I think has got four or five good years of footy left in him.
“Hopefully he can become a better leader. He’s a good leader, but hopefully a better leader to drag these younger players along.”
Ablett’s influence on the rising Suns was illustrated best by their stark late-season slide in 2014, winning just one of seven games after the midfielder injured his shoulder in round 16.
The premier AFL on-baller looks set to start 2015 in good nick after returning to pre-season training earlier than expected last week without a sling.
Ablett was restricted to light duties at Metricon Stadium on Monday morning and caught the ball right-handed to protect his surgically-repaired left shoulder.
“I imagine he’d be joining back with the main group within the next week or two,” Eade said. “There’ll be no problems with him.”
Hired to take the talent-laden Coast towards a premiership, Eade is reluctant to put any schedule to finals progress.
“My coaching is about continual improvement,” he said. “Hopefully my tenure will be a bit longer than I’ve committed to (three years).”