GOLD Coast co-captain Steven May insists Gary Ablett will remain an unofficial member of the Suns' leadership group, despite the former skipper's name missing from the formal list.
Ablett was a surprise omission from the seven-man group named on Tuesday morning, just months after the 32-year-old stepped aside as the club's captain.
However May has revealed that Ablett himself made the decision not to be a part of the group, and that the ex-Cat wasn't voted out by the players.
"He didn't feel he needed to be in there," May said.
"And that's fine. I personally thought he was going to be in.
"But it's just a matter of his preference. He wants to get his shoulder right and have a good year."
Suns coach Rodney Eade told SEN on Tuesday Ablett had notified the club of his intention not to be in the leadership group in his end of season review in August, since the superstar was injured.
"When Gary spoke to me at the end of August to say that he didn't want to keep going with the captaincy, he indicated then that he probably didn't want to be in the leadership group, if that was OK," Eade said.
"Then he confirmed that in September. It was more about getting his shoulder right and some other things that were going on. He just wanted to concentrate on footy. It's not going to change his leadership."
Ablett's future at the club is likely to remain a point of contention throughout the season, with the veteran being denied a trade back to Geelong by the Suns late last year.
Eade revealed he wasn't made aware of Ablett's shock request immediately. Football manager Marcus Ashcroft and list manager Scott Clayton quashed the trade idea immediately.
"He (Ablett) or his manager spoke to Scott Clayton and Marcus about a trade. I didn't know about it. They didn't even broach me about it, they just knocked it on the head," Eade said.
And despite that, May said Ablett would still be on hand to assist him and new co-captain Tom Lynch in an unofficial eighth leadership role.
"He is still mentoring Tom (Lynch) and myself in the changing of the guard," May said.
"He can't just leave and not help us out.
"If there are any issues around the club that we need to get his opinion, he is more than happy to do that."
Defender Jarrod Harbrow was the other player to be dropped from last year's leadership team.
Their spots in the group were taken by off-season recruit Michael Barlow and midfielder Touk Miller, who steps up from the emerging leadership group.
Michael Rischitelli, Matt Rosa and David Swallow have held their spots in the group, alongside co-captains May and Lynch.
May said he had noticed the difference already in Ablett since he relinquished the top job.
"I've just noticed at training he's got a big weight off his shoulders," May said.
"He's just focusing on his body and his football and he doesn't have to worry about all the other things that happen off the field."
May also heaped praise on Barlow, who has already made an impression at the club just months after being delisted by Fremantle.
"He's a bit older than Tom and myself, so it's good to have that," May said.
- with Dinny Navaratnam