In 2015, the entire Gold Coast SUNS first-choice midfield quartet of Gary Ablett, Jaeger O’Meara, Dion Prestia and David Swallow was barely spotted, playing just 20 of a possible 88 games and not once stepping onto the field of battle together.
Compare this to 2014 when O’Meara, Prestia and Swallow each played the full 22 games and Ablett was at his scintillating best before succumbing to a shoulder injury against Collingwood in round 16.
At the time, the SUNS had nine wins on the board and appeared destined for a maiden finals berth before crashing back down to earth late in the season.
While there is still plenty of water to go under the bridge between now and round one against Essendon on March 26, coach Rodney Eade is hopeful of having all four available for the clash but remains cautious on Swallow and O’Meara.
“Not putting on any timelines (on their returns). 100 per cent sure, unless anything happens along the way, that Gary and Dion will be (available round one),” Eade said.
“(It) looks at this stage that David’s a really good chance. Jaeger we won’t know, it was a pretty serious injury.
“But if he progresses and there’s no hiccups then there’s a really good chance he will be as well.”
Swallow played just six games in 2015 after straining a posterior cruciate ligament in round four before re-aggravating the injury in round 15, while O’Meara missed the entire season after rupturing his patella tendon in a NEAFL practice match in early April.
The West Australian pair continue to progress in their rehab, with Eade detailing their programs had now incorporated running on the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill.
“David Swallow ran on the AlterG two weeks ago for the first time, which is the treadmill and he started his running on grass last Thursday,” Eade said.
“Jaeger [O’Meara] started AlterG today so he’s about a week or so behind David but he’s progressing really well. He got a really good report last week off the tendon specialist.”
Like Swallow and O’Meara, Prestia also succumbed to a knee injury, suffering a torn lateral meniscus in round 8 that prematurely ended his season.
The outlook on the Calder Cannons product is far more optimistic, with the elite runner increasing his volume on the track and looking to progress back into the main group in the new year.
“Dion’s doing half the footy drills at the moment, he’s doing 50 per cent,” Eade said.
“It’s a bit like Gary, he’s a bit behind Gary obviously but we’re just integrating him slowly and he did about 10 to 12 k today total in volume and he did about half the footy drills so we’ll gradually put him in the program which should be after Christmas where he’ll be fully in.”