The maiden finals berth the AFL is sweating on may deliver the Gold Coast Suns something arguably more precious – Jaeger O’Meara’s signature.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan on Tuesday admitted the league needed expansion club the Suns to end their drought and start playing finals footy in their sixth year.
Ablett agreed it was time to deliver success on the field which he hoped would also secure a major coup off it.
Ablett said the best way to retain players at the Suns was winning.
And a maiden finals campaign may yet convince the off contract O’Meara to stay.
O’Meara has been linked to a move to Victoria where he is developing business interests.
Hawthorn is the latest club believed to be circling the 22-year-old.
The gifted youngster is in demand despite not playing a game since last pre-season due to debilitating kneecap injury.
Rumours linking O’Meara to a move south became so loud that they prompted Ablett to seek out the classy midfielder for a chat.
Ablett said he left the conversation convinced O’Meara would stay.
“I think so, yes,” he said.
“I had a chat to him about it and didn’t put any pressure on him.
“I just said to him he has to make a decision that feels right.
“He had some concerns early last year, we felt we made some changes in that area.
“Hopefully that is enough to keep him.”
O’Meara, a Suns leadership group member, had been concerned with disciplinary and team culture issues that were addressed following Harley Bennell’s last season dismissal.
But Ablett said there was one certain way to keep players.
“We can start by winning games,” he said.
“If any players were to look at leaving it would probably mean they don’t see success in the next couple of years down the track.
“We play to win premierships. If players see that as a long way off there is a chance they will move clubs.”
On the Gold Coast to celebrate the code’s 150th year in Queensland, McLachlan said the AFL needed the Suns boasting a fit Ablett playing finals footy.
The Suns have not played finals footy in their five-season history and were limited to a total of just four wins last year after a horror run of injuries to stars such as Ablett.
“They need to start playing finals sooner rather than later – it’s time,” McLachlan said.
“Gary is the best player in our competition for the last five years.
“Not having him playing is a blow for all football supporters.”
Ablett said he would overcome a foot complaint and play the Suns’ AFL season opener at home against Essendon on Saturday.
“We feel we are ready to play finals footy,” Ablett said.
“We have spoken about that in the pre-season – everyone is clear on our expectations.”