GOLD Coast coach Rodney Eade believes veteran Gary Ablett's increasingly frequent forays forward could allow him to affect games as significantly as two of the finest goalsneaks competition.
On an AFL-run Facebook Q&A, Eade was asked whether his two-time Brownlow Medallist could emulate the freakish feats of Eddie Betts and Cyril Rioli. His response was unequivocal despite Ablett's recent shoulder troubles.
"Yes, he can,” Eade said.
"We believe we've got quite a few players now who have that ability. Ablett, (Ben) Ainsworth are another year along, (Callum) Ah Chee as well.”
In a separate interview with SEN Breakfast, Eade discussed his expectation for Ablett as a forward.
"If he plays as a permanent forward, he'd kick 50 or 60 (goals), I would have thought. If you're a defender on him, you'd be twitching like anything ... His ability to read the ball and be in the right spot is as good as I have ever seen,” he said.
"I still think he's a very good midfielder ... but I would've thought 60 (% forward time) to 40 (% midfield time).”
"Gary's accepting of (playing more forward). He's done all his match simulation - even though his shoulder's not right to do total contact - as a forward so far.”
Eade is hoping his young team can grow beyond its typical reliance on the 288-game champion, who missed the last seven games in 2016 due to injury and hasn't been at his best since 2014.
"Having been involved in footy at other clubs ... we have to go past Gary,” he said.
"You can't rely on one player. If you've got 22 players and you're playing in a final, you can't rely on one player - as good as he is and as good as he was.
"Unfortunately with him being a midfielder, all of our midfield was out (last year), so we didn't have the chance to go past him, per se.
"Hopefully now with the players we've recruited and what we've done with the draft and if we don't get injuries, we're able to give these players a lot more game time in the midfield, so (Ablett) can be that extra midfielder that can play forward as well. Hopefully he can be the cream on the top.”
One of those recruits is former Fremantle ball-winner Michael Barlow, who joined the Suns on a two-year deal last November after 126 games with the Dockers.
Eade anticipates the 28-year-old will play a mixture of forward and midfield, just as he did at his best under Mark Harvey and Ross Lyon in the west.
"Michael's been a positive addition to the squad,” he said.
"We think he can play as a tagger but also play as a high forward due to his great aerobic capacity.”
Eade also indicated recruits Ainsworth and Jack Bowes would "push” for selection in round one against the Brisbane Lions.
An interrupted pre-season means Will Brodie is unlikely to play senior football until mid-year, while Brad Scheer and Jack Scrimshaw are more likely to feature in the back end of Gold Coast's 2017 campaign.
The Suns begin their JLT Community series against the Lions on Sunday, February 19, in Merrimac, Queensland.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.