Absent champion Gary Ablett’s leadership has been defended by Gold Coast teammate Tom Nicholls in the wake of stinging criticism from Jonathan Brown.
Ex-Brisbane Lions captain Brown has taken aim at Ablett, asking why he has not returned from a shoulder complaint to help an injury-ravaged Suns despite being cleared.
“It’s time for Gary to stand up and part of that is playing with injuries,” Brown told Fox Footy’s On the Couch TV program.
“I believe now that Gary needs to get back on the field.
“There’s an obligation to do everything in your power to play football … even more so as a leader.
“You can guarantee every player on that list is looking to him as a leader.”
Ablett has not been sighted since the dual Brownlow Medallist aggravated his surgically repaired shoulder in round two.
Suns coach Rodney Eade revealed on the weekend that players had approached him, asking when their champion would return.
But Gold Coast ruckman Nicholls told a different story on Tuesday.
“We’ve had quite a lot of leadership sessions and Gary has spoken to us in depth about his injury, and how he’s doing everything he can to overcome it,” he said.
“That’s a testament to Gaz. He’s so professional.
“He’ll get his body just right before he can play.
“He won’t get it 100 per cent, but he’ll get it 80 per cent, so he knows when he’s out there, he’s not going to let us down.”
Nicholls said he respected the uncompromising Brown’s view but did not agree with it.
“Someone like Browny has a lot of clout so you listen to it and it’s in the media but we know where Gary is at,” he said.
“Browny was obviously a different player, a different person whose leadership (style) was to lead by example and he played with a lot of injuries.
“But Gary hasn’t neglected his leadership at all in our eyes.
“He is ticking every box with his rehab.”
Ablett is expected to be back following Gold Coast’s round 12 bye.
Ex-Suns coach Guy McKenna sided with his former champion, saying he could understand why Ablett had taken a cautious approach.
“I suspect he wasn’t quite right to play in those first two games,” he told Fox Sports.
“He stirred his shoulder up so he will be a lot more cautious the second time around.
“And taking an injured player into a game, you will get exposed.
“He will get out when he can function properly with it.”
However, leading sports medico Peter Larkins hoped Ablett was not waiting for his shoulder to be just right before returning to the field.
“If he’s waiting to get 100 per cent movement again before he plays he might not play again this year,” he told the AFL.com website.