Gold Coast Suns captain and midfield superstar Gary Ablett will be sidelined for another two or three weeks with his knee injury.
Ablett had been optimistic that he would might only miss only one or two matches, but Suns assistant coach Dean Solomon confirmed this morning that the absence could stretch to four or five games.
"Unfortunately he just hasn’t come up as well as we’d like him to and he’s probably… another two or three weeks (away)," Solomon told SEN radio this morning.
"Unfortunately the injury hasn’t responded as quickly as we first thought it would…"
Solomon said the absence of Ablett, who averaged over 40 possessions in his first three matches, and is still quoted at $9.00 to win the Brownlow Medal, would enable his young teammates to "show leadership and take ownership" of the team, traits they exhibited in an improved effort in the Suns’ 34-point loss to North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium last weekend.
With Ablett, fellow senior midfielder Michael Rischitelli, and experienced defender Jarrod Harbrow out injured, the Suns led at half-time after a seven goals to four second quarter.
Solomon praised the efforts of his young charges, but saved special mention for rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt, saying he would be a "very, very good player at this level".
"He’s a rare athlete. It’s a big call, but he’s up there with some of the athletes and players I’ve played with like Hirdy (Essendon champion James Hird).
"The way they drive themselves they go above and beyond to get the best out of themselves… he’ll make sure he makes it and we’re starting to see signs of it now."
Solomon was at pains to defuse any animosity between his club and upcoming opponent Fremantle after Dockers coach Ross Lyon reacted angrily to Ablett’s tweet critical of Fremantle tagger Ryan Crowley.
"I don’t think we have the right to disrespect any club. We have the utmost respect for every footy club we play against at the moment because we’re learning our craft and right now we’re really behind the eight ball and we haven’t had a great start to the year... we think we should be a bit ahead of where we are.
"To say we disrespecting the Fremantle footy club, we wouldn’t allow that as coaches. And we as the Gold Coast Suns have the utmost respect for the Fremantle footy club."