GOLD Coast CEO Mark Evans has launched an impassioned defence of superstar Sun Gary Ablett and vowed to do everything he could to ensure the former Cat stays at the club.
Ablett, 33, is contracted until the end of 2018 after signing a three-year deal in 2015 but asked to be traded back to his former club at the end of last season and later told AFL.com.au retirement was an option at the end of this season.
He has been on the receiving end of criticism after a slow start, and for missing last Saturday's 35-point loss to Melbourne with a shoulder injury after hurting himself against Port Adelaide in China and not returning home immediately for rehab.
Evans told Melbourne radio station SEN on Saturday some of the criticism went too far.
"I'm sick and tired of people digging into Gary and not paying enough respect to what he's done in his career," Evans said.
"At round two, we questioned Gary Ablett for a poor game, and he played poorly. (He) doesn't back away from that, but make the critique proper.
"After China, where he can't play the next week with a shoulder and decides not to after a fitness test, and we question his preparation and recovery, how about paying respect to a guy who's about to play his 300th game in a few weeks' time.
"Eight times All Australian, five best and fairests, critique him and critique him harshly if you need to, but keep it real."
Ablett copped a knock to his right shoulder against the Cats in round seven and aggravated it against the Power the following week. It was his left shoulder that he had two operations on.
This season, he is first in the competition for inside-50s per game (6.4), fourth for disposals per game (31.6) and fifth for clearances per game (7.4).
The dual Brownlow medallist has played 296 career matches heading into Saturday's clash against West Coast at Metricon Stadium and barring any further setbacks, will hit the 300-game milestone against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium in round 14.
Evans will fight to keep Ablett at the club.
"I'll fight to make sure that he wants to stay at the Gold Coast Suns because I can see a great opportunity for him and a great opportunity for us," Evans said.
Co-captain Steven May is out of contract at the end of the season and the club boss was unequivocal about his intention for the key defender.
"I'll fight to keep him too," Evans said.
Coach Rodney Eade is another out of contract at season's end and Evans said there was no timeline on when a decision would be made on his future.
A host of other staff will also need to be re-signed or moved on.
"It's not uncommon to have, say, a third of your staff out of contract in any year. There are probably more of those in line with the senior coach's contract," Evans said.