Gary Ablett’s graceful return last weekend shrouded the importance of another key midfield cog for Gold Coast, coach Rodney Eade says.
The superstar Suns’ captain stole all the headlines after leading his side to a breakthrough 55-point AFL win over North Melbourne last weekend, picking up a lazy 31 disposals and three goals.
It was his first game back from a 12-week layoff and served as further proof – if any was needed – that Gold Coast are a different proposition with Ablett on deck.
But Eade believes it would be folly to overlook David Swallow and how vital his presence was to the Suns.
Also returning from injury against the Kangaroos, Swallow was just as influential as Ablett, laying nine tackles and helping add a hard edge to a Gold Coast on-ball unit that had flopped without its stars.
“I think we underestimate David playing as well,” Eade told reporters in Cairns on Friday, ahead of their clash with the Western Bulldogs on Saturday at Cazaly’s Stadium.
“He’s a fairly humble guy. All you want is players to contribute to the team cause.
“Gary’s a very unselfish player as well; he makes the players around him play better – that’s what the great players are able to do.
“But David was terrific for us. Most of our injuries really have been to our running players, our midfield, and to have two quality players come back there really helped us.”
Eade confirmed Ablett is “ready to go” against the Bulldogs, despite having sent a scare through the camp by skipping training earlier in the week.
“He was a bit sore early in the week, to be honest,” he said.
“You can’t expect (much from) anyone who’s been out for 10 or 12 weeks … but he’s probably jumped back in quicker than most players with his output of his performance.
“He’ll get heavily tagged tomorrow, which he’s used to.”
The Bulldogs eased to a 28-point win over the Suns in last year’s annual Cairns fixture – the week after Ablett suffered his initial season-ending shoulder dislocation.
Key forward Tom Boyd will play after knee soreness had kept him out of the Dogs’ scrappy win over Carlton last weekend, while Josh Prudden has been named to make his AFL debut.
Prudden, originally drafted in 2012, has taken three injury-plagued years to crack the top grade.
“It’s a really popular story inside our four walls – it hasn’t been an easy road for him,” Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy said.
“In-and-under type player, really clever, sharp hands, hard at it… he’s almost like an old-school footballer.”