North clash with Hawthorn
Rohan Connolly previews the weekend's AFL action, including Friday night's game between an inconsistent North Melbourne and high flying Hawthorn.PT0M0S 620 349
GOLD COAST: It's been nearly four years since the AFL's best player graced the competition's finals.
Gary Ablett's last game for Geelong was the 2010 preliminary final against Collingwood, a game the Cats would lose by 41 points.
Fast forward to 2014 and the dual Brownlow Medallist is eyeing off a return to September football as Gold Coast enter the final third of their campaign clinging to eighth spot.
Gary Ablett turns it on against Collingwood. Photo: Getty Images
After so long without taking part in the sport's pinnacle, Ablett is urging his young teammates to seize the moment.
He is calling on the Suns to make the most of their last eight games, starting with this Saturday's visit by the Magpies, to ensure their year doesn't end in the disappointment of just missing out on finals.
"I've said many times, when I made the decision to come up, I knew it was going to take time but we've got a great bunch of guys - they train hard; they listen; they want to improve," Ablett said.
"It's a big eight weeks coming up for us.
"There's still a big part of the season to go and we've got to make sure we keep improving and, if we win enough of those games, we'll play finals footy."
The Suns enjoyed a breakthrough win over the Magpies in the corresponding fixture at Metricon Stadium last year.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has already signalled his intention to give his main stopper Brent Macaffer the job of tagging Ablett.
The Suns' skipper says that will be nothing new, however, and he'll be preparing for ways he can overcome Macaffer's attempts to nullify him.
"You look at different players' strengths and weaknesses and there's no doubt I'll be going through the tapes this week," he said.
"He's done some great jobs this year on some really, really good players.
"There's no doubt it's going to be tough out there but it's not just about that match-up - it's about the team."
Ablett also believes coach Guy McKenna's discussion with the umpires about the attention his star midfielder receives following an elbowing incident against Western Bulldog Liam Picken in round 10 has been a help as well.
"There's definitely been a change," Ablett said.
"The umpires have been looking out for it more. I'm not here to complain and I don't think any other players are either.
"As I said, that's just part of the game and you move forward and play your part for the team."