Gold Coast SUNS coach Rodney Eade has ended months of speculation and guessing games - Gary Ablett will line up against Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.
Despite not registering an appearance in the NAB Challenge series, the two-time Brownlow medalist was cleared to play in the opening game of the 2015 campaign after sufficiently overcoming a shoulder reconstruction. The injury that dramatically brought a full stop to his season in round 16 of last year.
Now, on the eve of the home and away season, Eade has registered the first victory of his tenure. The former Western Bulldogs and Sydney Swans mentor revealed he was always confident his captain would be fit for round one, even though Ablett may not have been at certain stages of his rehabilitation.
“Certainly Gary will play, there's no doubt. He's done an exceptional job really,” Eade told reporters on Tuesday at Metricon Stadium.
“I was always confident. I don't know if Gary was. It was his first major injury, and when you get something you've never experienced before, there's always some doubts creep into your mind.
“I think it was a matter of being clear in his mind, because he's so professional and organised in what he does, that everything was ticked off methodically in his mind and he's timed it perfectly.”
Eade revealed the champion midfielder wouldn’t be nursed in his highly anticipated return game with Ablett set to play in the midfield against the Demons.
The SUNS' new coach wasn’t concerned by the reality of Melbourne players testing Ablett’s shoulder in-play and behind the play.
“He’ll play in the midfield,” Eade said.
“His shoulder’s actually stronger than before he did it. The only way he’d do it again is probably the same motion that it happened which is how players do it. He’s going to be fine, he’s mentally tough.
“They can’t do anything untoward in today’s footy. They can bump but he’s used to that, he’s played his whole career with that.”
It would appear Ablett’s decision to forego last week’s AFL Captains Day may now pay dividends with the eight-time All-Australian moving as confidently as he has all pre-season during Tuesday’s training session.
On the back of last week’s grueling sessions with the SUNS' medical staff, Ablett appeared confident taking hits to his shoulder and being tackled, as well as taking the ball above his head.