Jaeger O’Meara’s comeback from knee surgery has hit a snag but there is a silver lining to Gold Coast’s midfield injury crisis, coach Rodney Eade maintains.
O’Meara, who hasn’t been seen at AFL level for two years, was supposed to play a full game in the NEAFL in Sydney on Saturday but lasted less than a half before complaining of muscle soreness.
The Suns had hoped the 22-year-old out-of-contract midfielder might be ready for a return against Fremantle next weekend, but that will now be pushed back and Eade said there was no need to rush what has been a very deliberate rehabilitation process.
But the delay further exacerbates a dire shortage of on-ballers at the Suns, which was brutally exposed by the Western Bulldogs in a 48-point win on Saturday in Cairns.
Gold Coast was missing Gary Ablett, Michael Rischitelli and Dion Prestia – who all suffered major injuries last weekend – while O’Meara and David Swallow have been on the sidelines for extended periods.
The Bulldogs took full advantage, with a near full-strength on-ball brigade effectively in control for the entire contest, too strong and too smart for Gold Coast’s midfield understudies.
It’s nothing new for the Suns, who were struck by an eerily similar injury curse in 2015 – but players emerged from that difficult period, and Eade says they will again.
“It’s the same thing as last year – (Jesse) Lonergan and (Aaron) Hall stood up for us,” he said.
“We’ve got no one else, to be honest – no other mids. That’s a battle for us.
“But I think young Jesse Joyce down back, I think we’ve found a player there. Young Callum Ah Chee can be a player.
“Peter Wright had a poor one tonight but he’s had some growth over the last month or so. Jarrod Garlett had a very good second half.
“With opportunities guys are getting, we’re finding out a bit about them and increasing our depth.”
Eade confirmed Prestia will see a surgeon in Melbourne on Monday and may undergo an immediate clean-up operation on his knee, and with rumours building that he will sign for a Victorian club next season, it might mean he has played his last game for the Suns.