Gary Ablett says Gold Coast’s drugs crisis is a “wake-up call” to the destructive nature of illicit substances.
The Suns captain made his long-awaited return from injury in Saturday’s 55-point win over North Melbourne, just their second victory of the AFL season.
And he could hardly have timed his comeback any better.
Not only did Gold Coast need Ablett in an on-field sense, they desperately needed a leader to rally around after a week of controversy that has shaken the expansion club to its core.
It reached fever pitch with the publication of images from two years ago allegedly showing young gun Harley Bennell with either cocaine or speed and a rolled-up $20 banknote.
Ablett said his biggest concern has always been the welfare of his teammates.
“I know how destructive drugs can be,” he said.
“It might be a bit of a wake-up call which is probably what we needed.
“It disappoints me because I’ve got people who are close to me in my life that I’ve seen how destructive it can be, so I care about these guys, the boys, as people and as a leader.
“It’s not just helping them grow as footballers, it’s helping them grow as people as well and that’s what hurt me.
“I know that everyone makes mistakes and we’ve just got to make sure we get around them and continue to educate them in the right way.”
Ablett maintains the Suns don’t have a culture problem.
“I don’t think you’re always going to know everything that goes on,” he said.
“I was asked a question before I saw the Harley picture come out and I said I don’t think we have a culture problem and I (still) don’t think we do.
“Obviously that stuff’s come out and we need to hit it on the head, we need to make sure we get around Harley, we continue to educate the boys and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Ablett said it was good to be back on an AFL ground for the first time since his failed attempt to play through shoulder problems in the opening two rounds.
It took a little while for him to get going but once he did, he was near-unstoppable, collecting 31 possessions and kicking three goals.
“I felt a little bit rusty early. It took me a little bit to get going (but) I knew that was going to be the case,” he said.
“I’m glad I put the time into it to get it right and hopefully I’ll play out the rest of the season.”