Gold Coast Suns upbeat despite life without Ablett

Gary Ablett leaves the field in pain during the game against Collingwood. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Gary Ablett leaves the field in pain during the game against Collingwood. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

AUSTRALIAN RULES

AFL coaches around the country have been saying for years that Gold Coast is not a one-man band.

Now comes the expansion club's chance to prove it.

Gary Ablett's agonising decision on Wednesday to undergo shoulder surgery means he will miss the rest of the season.

Ablett said he and the club agreed it was the "tough" but right call, given there was an 80 per cent chance of dislocation if he did not opt for a complete reconstruction.

Ablett's setback had ramifications across the land.

Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury was pitched into Brownlow medal favouritism by bookmakers.

But it's the Suns who will suffer most as they push for a maiden finals campaign without Ablett.

He is more than their best player - he is the league's best.

Ablett is more than their captain - he is one of few on the list to know much about football in September.

Michael Rischitelli will lead the side against the Western Bulldogs in Cairns on Saturday, the captaincy to be rotated for the rest of the season.

Ablett has won games off his own foot ... his presence alone can lift a side.

Dion Prestia and company will at times need to do the same during the final seven rounds.

Many have achieved similar feats, but always in Ablett's company.

The Suns are none from five when Ablett has missed a game due to injury in the 2011-13 seasons.

More promising is the way they held on for a five-point win over the Magpies last weekend when Ablett and others were injured.

"Our guys were able to stand up without Gary and get the job done against a quality opponent," Suns football manager Marcus Ashcroft said on Wednesday.

This was the same line vice-captain David Swallow uttered on Tuesday.

Palpable belief among Ablett's disciples has been building for some time.

Earlier this year, when Ablett had his colours lowered by Liam Picken in a comfortable win over the Bulldogs, vice-captain Tom Lynch explained as much.

"He was playing a lone hand, but we've got a really good midfield spread now," Lynch said on the AFL website. "It's real exciting to see we don't have to rely on Gaz."

The football world will be watching as Lynch's claims are tested.

The subplot to the saga will come on Monday, September 22.

Ablett that night will hope to have banked enough Brownlow votes to get home as the frontrunner while the pack advanced in the final seven rounds.

A third Brownlow medal would be an incredible achievement, given no player has missed more than four games in a season and won the sport's most prestigious individual honour.

But, as is the case with Ablett, anything is possible.

The 30-year-old, a $1.60 favourite before the market was suspended when he hurt his shoulder, has drifted in betting.

But only to $6 behind Pendlebury and Sydney champion Josh Kennedy. - AAP

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