TO lead is to go before, to show the way, to influence, to be the example, to take the principal part.
Sadly, for as great a player he has been and still is, Gary Ablett is now failing in his capacity as the Gold Coast Suns captain.
Ablett injured his shoulder quite badly in the Round 16 win over Collingwood last year and without surprise or shock his stellar 2014 was over as he went in for a season-ending surgery.
Coach Rodney Eade at the time didn’t attribute Ablett’s performance to his shoulder but merely pointed out his captain was “a bit rusty”.
Further proof was in the pudding by Ablett fronting up off a six day break for the Suns’ home opener against St Kilda in Round 2.
Clearly hampered he played out the entire game in what was a comfortable win for the Saints but during the ensuing week the club stated his shoulder required ‘resting’.
“What we do know is that he strengthened his shoulder considerably in the lead up to Round 1. After a couple of games, where his shoulder has been tested in match conditions, Gary’s shoulder has been stirred up, effecting his movement and strength,” Football Operations manager Marcus Ashcroft said before the Round 3 game against Geelong.
“Our advice is that with some rest and the ability to add more strength, Gary should return in a better state to play.
“Prior to round 1, our medical staff were satisfied with the range of movement Gary had in his left shoulder and as a result Gary was available for selection and personally he was determined to play.”
He was medically cleared to play before Round 1 however two weeks later he was in need of a rest, a rest that is now approaching two months.
Ablett, most likely the league’s highest paid player and also importantly the poster boy and captain for one of the AFL’s two critically-important expansion franchises, should be questioned about the delay in his return from said ‘rest’.
To what extent is he able to cross the white line and lead the Suns in a time where they could not be more desperate for their spearhead to influence the results they most certainly cannot afford to be enduring?
To have legends like Jonathon Brown and Garry Lyon question the work ethic and pain-threshold of someone who was destined for a record-equaling third Brownlow last year before that fateful Brent Macaffer tackle last winter is profound.
But whilst there may indeed be a germ of truth to his reluctance to play when others in the same position may front up and be the warriors the game demands, there also needs to be a blowtorch put on the performance of Ablett in his extended layoff.
With the considerably large salary he earns, it is not just simply remuneration for the skills and talents he possesses as a footballer, but most crucially in his move up north it also includes the ambassadorial and promotional element of being the game’s best player fronting the league’s second youngest club.
He may not be as media savvy or attention seeking as the Kardashians flogging a new fragrance but he takes on such extraordinary earnings that in turn he should be doing a better job in the obligations to his employer.
In the two months on the sidelines, a great chance to capitalise on the new-found availability to promote and be the face of his franchise and the only time Ablett has fronted a camera in anger was for an A-League PlayStation game exhibition.
The Suns have been dying out for any positive, to hear from their leader, a message that everything will be ok, to stick the course and back the club in, and the only time Ablett is interested in making a public appearance is by playing video games.
Not once has Ablett been involved in promoting the club in the media, on radio or on television, in an absence that well and truly accommodates him to do so. But when it came to a personal endorsement to promote he was more than happy to participate.
This was a less than a week after he signed a new, three-year lucrative deal to stay at the fledgling club, a deal now some would question its value in hindsight.
Interesting he was able to play the first two rounds, two rounds where behind the scenes such a contract would be almost completed, and just before the pen was put to paper and the deal announced, the shoulder was too sore to play on and what was to be a short spell has become quite the holiday with no end in sight.
Maybe Brown and Lyon have been too harsh. Maybe Ablett is genuinely suffering an agonisingly interrupted recovery from a very bad version of the injury and is still a way off returning.
Maybe also he hasn’t had the media requests and offers to promote the club where normal playing duties may otherwise prohibit him.
Maybe the club hasn’t lent on him be the captain off the field that so many other football fans would expect of their respective skippers.
Maybe its all a coincidence, that he was cleared to play, played, nutted out a new three-year deal then put himself out to pasture other than for a midweek visit to Melbourne for a personal, not club, engagement.
Not a chance. The Suns look absolute bereft of leadership and it’s now clearer as to why.
Not good enough Gary.