Steven May will be rusty in his first AFL game back from a lengthy suspension, Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade has warned.
But the sheer presence of the key defender will be a huge boost for the depleted Suns ahead of Sunday’s tough clash with the West Coast Eagles at Domain Stadium.
May returns for his first match since round 4, when he earned a five-week ban from the AFL tribunal for a head-high bump on Brisbane Lions ruckman Stefan Martin.
A remorseful May told media earlier in the week it was the “wrong decision” to bump and that he would no longer seek to “run through blokes” on the field.
Eade said he was looking forward to having the hard-nosed 24-year-old back in the side, although he has been handed a difficult assignment on West Coast full forward Josh Kennedy, currently second in the Coleman Medal race.
“It’s a tough first-up ask against a player in very good form and an excellent player in Josh Kennedy,” he told reporters on Friday.
“But Steven’s been training really well. He’ll probably be a little bit rusty, I would have thought, missing five weeks.
“His leadership’s going to be invaluable, especially in an inexperienced backline.
“His voice, leadership and his aggression at the ball… if he can do his role it’ll be a plus for us.”
May is one of a number of key inclusions for Gold Coast this week, along with skipper Gary Ablett, ruckman Tom Nicholls and midfielder Aaron Hall, who all return from injury.
Also back training, but not yet ready to play, is former AFL Rising Star winner Jaeger O’Meara.
The off-contract 22-year-old rejoined the Suns’ main training group this week for the first time in more than a year as he continues to mount a comeback from extensive knee surgery.
“He’s in a good headspace,” Eade said.
“He was like a kid in a lolly shop, to be able to get out there and play, just enjoy it.
“Now he’s really looking forward to playing again.
“It’d be handy… a year and a half he hasn’t played a game for us, so I’d certainly like to get him back into the side.”