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Improved culture will keep Jaeger at Suns, hopes Gaz

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Gary Ablett is confident the new environment at Gold Coast will convince Jaeger O'Meara to re-sign - ${keywords}
Gary Ablett is confident the new environment at Gold Coast will convince Jaeger O'Meara to re-sign

GOLD Coast captain Gary Ablett hopes the changes implemented at the Suns over the past year will be enough to convince young star Jaeger O'Meara to recommit to the club.

O'Meara is one of the game's hottest properties in 2016, with the NAB AFL Rising Star winner out of contract at the end of the season and unlikely to enter negotiations for a new deal until later in the year.

Ablett has already chatted to O'Meara about handling the talk about his future and said he hoped the 22-year-old will stick with the Suns beyond this year.

"I've already spoken to him about it and I've said it's his decision and he needs to make the decision on what he feels is right for him and his family," Ablett told AFL.com.au.

"But there's been some changes made around our football club and we all sat down at the end of the year – the leadership group and playing group – and spoke about the areas we needed to improve.

"Jaeger voiced his concerns and we feel like we've made some changes in those areas. Hopefully that's enough for him to stay."

The club has restructured its strength and conditioning program after the arrival of former Western Bulldogs fitness boss Justin Cordy last year.

O'Meara has indicated he wants to wait until he returns to the field and strings together some strong form before opening talks with the Suns, who are also comfortable with that stance.

O'Meara hasn't played at senior level since 2014 after rupturing his patella tendon in a NEAFL practice match at the start of last season.

He suffered another setback recently in his recovery and his return date was delayed a further six weeks, meaning he is unlikely to return to the senior Suns line-up until deeper into the home and away season.

It is likely to leave the Suns without first-choice midfielders O'Meara and David Swallow (knee) for much of the first half of the season, but Ablett said the Suns had enough cover in their engine room.

"If those guys aren't ready to go in round one we've got guys who are ready to take their spot. And that's the way we look at," Ablett said.

"I believe we've got a lot of depth there. We believe we're good enough to play finals footy."

Ablett did not feature in the Suns' NAB Challenge campaign as he nursed a foot injury, but the two-time Brownlow medallist and champion midfielder is fit to face Essendon next week in the club's season-opening game.

"The foot's good, it feels good. I'll be ready to go," he said.

"I've done it before (playing in round one without a pre-season game). I've been in the game 15 years now.

"You can't simulate that kind of match fitness but at the same time I've been in the system 15 years and had 15 years of base fitness. I'll be fine."