Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett says the past 18 months have been some of the most challenging of his storied AFL career.
After several seasons where seemingly nothing could go wrong for the dual Brownlow Medallist, Ablett has had to overcome more than his fair share of personal frustration through injury and the struggles of the Suns.
A season-ending shoulder injury in 2014 was the first serious physical setback of Ablett’s career.
After a false start at the beginning of the 2015 campaign, Ablett’s year again ended early as a knee injury this time curtailed his season.
It meant the influential midfielder was only on the field in a handful of games as first the Suns sacked foundation coach Guy McKenna, then endured a string of off-field dramas as new coach Rodney Eade tried to mould his own unit.
“It’s been challenging, there’s no doubt about that,” Ablett told AAP.
“My first 13 years I didn’t really have an injury. It’s been a new experience for me but at the same time it’s helped me grow a lot as a person, as a leader.”
Ablett says after a turbulent time at the Suns, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Last weekend’s breakthrough win in Perth against Fremantle was the club’s first victory in eight trips to Western Australia.
Ablett believes that determination is the outcome of the soul-searching he and his teammates had to endure during 2015.
“Every club goes through that at some stage,” he said.
“It was a few speed humps along the way, but we know what direction we want to head into as a football club and everyone’s jumping on board now.
“We’re driving standards hard now and that’s part of the reason we’ve started the season the way we have.
“We’re heading in the right direction.”