Former Gold Coast Suns coach Rodney Eade.
Former Gold Coast Suns coach Rodney Eade. TRACEY NEARMY

Eade urges Suns to fight for Ablett

SACKED Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade says the Suns must fight hard to retain Gary Ablett, who has the ability to play on for another two years.

Eade coached Ablett for almost three full seasons at the Suns before the veteran coach was informed on Monday night that he wouldn't receive another contract from the club.

The dual Brownlow Medallist's willingness to return home to Geelong has been widely speculated about for almost 12 months, but whether the Cats and Suns can agree on a deal remains a potential roadblock.

Despite the chatter, Ablett has shown ample brilliance over 14 games for the Suns this season, averaging 33 disposals - his highest count 2012 - and 7.7 clearances per outing.

In his first interview since parting ways with the Gold Coast, Eade said Ablett, 33, still had plenty left to give.

"His form and the way he's played, he'll probably still win the best and fairest. I think he can play for another two years," Eade told Channel Nine's The Footy Show.

An honest Ablett earlier this year said he was committed to the Suns for 2017 but suggested he wouldn't see out the final year of his contract at the Suns, even if it meant walking away from the game and retiring altogether.

Eade said he "wasn't fazed" at the time about that interview with Ablett, who cited ongoing family issues as to why he wanted a trade home to Geelong last year.

"He's got some family things he wants to work through. He's obviously towards the end of his career and I could see why he wants to come back home for that reason," Eade said.

"Whether it works out that way, I'm not sure."

Asked if the Suns should fight hard to retain Ablett, Eade said: "Yes, I would."

Ablett has played in just two of the Suns' past five games due to hamstring issues, which has raised further concerns over Ablett's commitment to the club this year.

But Eade said the criticism was unwarranted as the veteran's conservative nature may have prevented long-term damage to his hamstring.


Suns player Gary Ablett reacts following his 300th game, the round 15 AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, Saturday, July 1, 2017. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Suns player Gary Ablett following his 300th game in round 15. DAVE HUNT

"In all fairness to him, the hamstring scan came back with a 'little dislodgement'. He could've played if it was around the muscle, but it was around the tendon, so there was a risk he could be out for six to eight weeks," Eade said.

"He then declared himself right to play the Collingwood game. He pulled up sore from that.

"I spoke to him (on Thursday) and the other hamstring has got the same sort of thing. It's more a risk assessment."

Speaking three days after he was released from the Suns - a decision he was "disappointed" by but not blindsided - Eade said he would still "love to be involved" at AFL level.

"With my experience, I'd have a bit to offer - and my expertise. I'm certainly passionate about it," he said.

The Suns' coaching position isn't the only job that needs filling in the AFL industry at the moment, with league headquarters still after a footy operations boss.

Asked if he would consider taking up that role, Eade said: "I hadn't thought about it ... yeah I suppose."

Eade was adamant that there was room for both the Suns and Brisbane Lions in the tough Queensland sporting market.

"I think both can survive, but not in their own right as far as money," Eade said.

"The Gold Coast is the sixth-biggest city in Australia, so it's very popular. Queensland is a big state too, so the academies that these two clubs are working, there's a lot of area to cover and if there's just one team I don't think they'll all get covered.

"I think for the betterment of footy, it's better to have the two there. But it's going to take time and it's going to take some money."

Eade added that the AFL needed to continue to financially support the Suns as they were located in a tough Gold Coast market that is historically a bad place for sports teams due to a lack of sponsorship and membership.