Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade is hopeful it might be a case of addition by subtraction when it comes to fallen superstar Gary Ablett.
That is – Ablett minus the captaincy equals a return to fitness and top form for the dual-Brownlow medallist.
“I think it’s helped Gary,” Eade said after Ablett stepped down from the role in November to be replaced by young co-captains Tom Lynch and Steven May.
“With his injuries over the past two years with his shoulders, I think he wants to get back to being one of the upper echelon players in the competition.
“He’s really focused on that and he’s had a good pre-season.
“I think his relinquishing the captaincy has probably had about a 10 per cent assistance in that – I think it’s going to aid him.”
Shoulder dislocations have kept Ablett to just 20 games across the past two seasons, with the 32-year-old making a shock trade request back to Geelong at the end of last season.
Eade wouldn’t be drawn on whether the club expected to be hit with another request at the end of the coming season.
“That’s not our focus,” he said.
“I get asked Gary questions like what he had for breakfast at every press conference. From our point of view it’s business as usual.
“Gary’s in a really good place, he seems really happy, and he’ll play some good footy for us.”
With a full season from Ablett and a decent run with injuries, Eade expects the Suns to be part of the finals conversation after finishing 15th last year.
“We certainly expect to improve and our main area of improvement will be to have numbers available,” he said.
“That always helps and we think our recruits will add to us as well.
“Then there’s the natural development and maturation of our players aged between 19 and 25.
“We’d like to think that we’ll be pushing for the eight, but there will be a lot of teams in that mode as well.”