GOLD Coast Suns captain Gary Ablett has repeatedly said he was determined to lead his expansion team into the finals.
That is not going to happen this season.
While the Suns (8th, 9-6) look certain to be part of September action in their fourth year in the competition, Ablett will undergo reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder in Melbourne today and will not play again this season.
The dual Brownlow medalist said he had made the decision in the interest of his long-term playing career.
"It has been a very difficult decision, in particular as there is a temptation to compromise my shoulder's long-term movement in a bid to get back and assist the team to make our first finals appearance," he told the Suns website.
The club's general manager of football operations, Marcus Ashcroft, said the possibility of Ablett having an arthroscope to allow him to play in four or five weeks time had been discussed, but was dismissed.
"There was always going to be a risk if he played on with it that there'd be further damage to the joint and potentially some bone issues with the joint," Ashcroft said.
"We came back to the long-term view that we wanted to make sure Gary was 100 per cent right."
Ablett's manager Liam Pickering told radio station SEN yesterday the arthroscope option was just too risky.
"When the surgeon tells you there's an 80 per cent chance of it popping out again, that's probably telling you the best thing you can do is have a reconstruction," he said.
Ablett has missed just 18 games in his 12 seasons in the AFL, and just five in his four years with the Suns.
Gold Coast needs four more wins to guarantee its place in the finals, and plays the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane, St Kilda and Carlton - all in the bottom six on the ladder - in the next four weeks.
The first of those is against the Dogs in Cairns on Saturday. Former Brisbane Lions best-and-fairest winner Michael Rischitelli will captain the side in that match.
The captaincy will then be rotated among the leadership group that also includes Dion Prestia, David Swallow and Tom Lynch.
Ablett had been a hot favourite to win his third Brownlow medal this season, with some commentators suggesting he could have been as many as 10 votes ahead prior to the last round.
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury is now at the head of betting. He was quoted at $3.25 in a reshuffled market yesterday, just ahead of Sydney Swans midfielder Josh Kennedy ($3.50) and Ablett ($5).
Geelong captain Joel Selwood and Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin were both at $9.
GARY Ablett's season is over, with the Gold Coast skipper set to have reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder on Thursday.
Ablett will miss the rest of 2014, deciding on the safer, long-term option after two days of careful deliberation.
Ablett dislocated his shoulder after a tackle from Collingwood's Brent Macaffer on Saturday night.
The surgery will be performed in Melbourne by orthopaedic surgeon Greg Hoy, the same man that helped Carlton skipper Chris Judd overcome a similar injury.
Ablett said it was a tough decision to make, but the correct one."This is the most significant injury of my playing career, and we have made the decision in the interest of my long-term playing career," he told the Suns' website.
His absence for the remainder of 2014 jeopardises eighth-placed Gold Coast's tilt at a maiden finals appearance.
It will also throw Brownlow Medal markets into turmoil.
Suns general manager of football operations, Marcus Ashcroft, said the club supported Ablett's decision, one that would see him available for the first day of pre-season training in November.
"There was an option to potentially give an arthroscope to Gary to hopefully play in the next four to five weeks." Ashcroft said.
Michael Rischitelli will captain the Suns against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday.
"He'd love to be part of the last third of the season to potentially play in our first finals team, so from Gary's point of view it's a fairly unselfish approach," Ashcroft said.
Ablett has been incredibly durable over his 13-season career.
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