For a fleeting couple of hours, Gold Coast star Gary Ablett was back.
But a failed fitness test ensures Ablett will have a frustrating end to the AFL season – and possibly his time at the Suns.
As expected, the two-time Brownlow Medallist was among four inclusions for Saturday night’s season-ending away game against Port Adelaide.
Under AFL rules, the Suns had to name Ablett in their team for the Saturday game.
Then Ablett had to pass the fitness test at Thursday night training.
“Gaz gave himself the best opportunity to play this weekend, but unfortunately at training this evening he simply could not reach the speed required to be passed fit to play this weekend,” said Gold Coast football boss Marcus Ashcroft.
Jack Bowes also failed a fitness test last night and misses out on a return because of his hamstring injury.
Ablett has struggled with a persistent hamstring problem in the last few weeks of the season and missed their last two games.
There is persistent speculation that Ablett will try to return to Geelong, despite having a year left on his contract.
The Suns swiftly knocked back a Geelong trade request from Ablett last year, based on personal reasons.
However, he has also flagged that he might walk away from the game altogether at season’s end.
Earlier yesterday, interim coach Dean Solomon had said Ablett was likely to play against the Power.
“I had a really good conversation with him five minutes ago and he said ‘I’m feeling really confident’,” he said.
“You back in his judgement; he’s earned a lot of trust over the years and knows his body better than all of us.
“But he’s ready to go, massive chance.”
The Suns have lost both games under the tenure of Solomon since the axing of head coach Rodney Eade.
Attempting to simplify things, Solomon’s self-confessed “ugly” approach focuses on winning contested ball, team defence and tackling.
“What we’ve done is strip it back and make it really simple for the guys and really clear,” Solomon said of the changes since Eade was in charge.
“That’s not to say that the game plan was wrong, we just made it really simple and clear.”
Solomon pointed the Power as a good example of how that style of footy can be effective.
“(Port) missed finals the last two years and they’ve gone back to the fundamentals and got themselves back into a finals campaign,” he said.
“I think you’ll see two similar styles of footy on Saturday night, so hopefully it holds us in good stead.”
Mitch Hallahan, originally dropped, will retain his spot because Ablett and Bowest were ruled out.
The Suns recalled former Crow Jarryd Lyons and Will Brodie, while Jesse Lonergan, Jack Leslie and Josh Schoenfeld were dropped.
Jasper Pittard will return from a calf complaint for Port Adelaide, replacing the suspended Tom Jonas.
Meanwhile, Essendon have named Jobe Watson in their squad for Sunday’s must-win Etihad Stadium game against Fremantle.
Coach John Worsfold said on Wednesday he expected Watson to be available after a week’s rest.
Travis Colyer is also set to return, replacing injured small forward Josh Green, and the Bombers have dropped Craig Bird.
The Sunday teams will be finalised on Friday afternoon.
Fremantle have dropped key forward Cam McCarthy in the wake of successive 104-point losses and also axed youngster Ryan Nyhuis, while Sean Darcy is suspended.
St Kilda have confirmed that Sam Gilbert will miss the MCG match against Richmond because of an abdominal strain.
West Coast have dropped Josh Hill for the match against Adelaide, the last game of round 23 and also the AFL swansong for their Domain Stadium home.
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