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Ablett 'will kick 40-plus goals' next year: Bartel

Gary Ablett, Jimmy Bartel and Paul Chapman celebrate the 2009 premiership - AFL,Geelong Cats,Gary Ablett,Jimmy Bartel
Gary Ablett, Jimmy Bartel and Paul Chapman celebrate the 2009 premiership

GARY Ablett's former Geelong teammate and fellow Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel is tipping the 'Little Master' to kick 40-plus goals in his Cats return next year.

Ablett and Bartel were two of the key figures in Geelong's dominant era as it won three premierships from four Grand Finals between 2007 and 2011.

The 34-year-old's homecoming was confirmed in last week's NAB AFL Trade Period and ended his seven-season stint at the Gold Coast, where he went on a big-money deal at the end of 2010.

Ablett struggled with injuries in recent years, failing to play more than 15 games in any of the past four seasons, but was still good enough to claim the Suns' best and fairest in 2017.

Bartel expects Ablett to play more of a forward role at Simonds Stadium next year, although still with plenty of time through the midfield – enough to average about 25 disposals.

"(His impact) will be enormous. People who keep saying he's 34 and all that … he will kick 40-plus goals this year," Bartel told RSN of Ablett.

"He's one of the most competitive people I've ever met – he's super, super competitive.

"People who knew that Geelong era and speak of how competitive Steve Johnson, who's incredibly stubborn, (was) and Paul Chapman and these sort of guys.

"Right next to them was Gary Ablett. He does it in a different way; he's a quieter person, but he's unbelievably competitive (and) he loves a challenge."

Opinions vary on where the retooled Cats stack up compared to the competition, given Ablett was the club's sole playing addition in the Trade Period.

Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie retired at season's end, Steven Motlop headed to Port Adelaide as a free agent and Darcy Lang crossed to the Blues for more midfield opportunity.

But there are high hopes that the likes of Brandan Parfitt, Nakia Cockatoo, Lincoln McCarthy and Jackson Thurlow can take a major step forward.

"I don't think the competition's going to get so much better," Bartel said.

"Even if they drop off one or two games – losing one or two more than they did last year – it still puts them in the running for the top four."

Ablett has kicked 386 goals from 302 games in his brilliant career.