GARY ABLETT will be "lost to the game" if he endures another injury-plagued season, Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane says.
On Tuesday the Suns superstar, 32, officially relinquished the captaincy and shocked the football world by raising the possibility that he might not play beyond 2017.
Ablett, who is contracted to the end of 2018, unsuccessfully requested a trade back to Geelong last month to deal with personal issues.
The dual Brownlow medallist has played just 20 of the Suns' past 50 games as he has battled shoulder and knee injuries.
There is speculation Ablett will again try to join the Cats at the end of next year, but Cochrane insisted the Suns would not entertain that prospect, declaring him a "110 per cent required player".
However, the Suns boss fears Ablett's glittering career might already be over by then.
"He wants to make sure that he can actually get through a complete year," Cochrane told radio SEN on Wednesday morning.
"We've put (in) an awful lot of effort, as has he, with his rehab and I think he'll have a great year and he'll be in a good head space.
"But we do have to face up to the prospect that if he has another shocking year of injury … forget the Gold Coast Football Club, I think he's going to be lost to the game, and that will be an absolute disappointment for every football fan in this country."
Cochrane said the entire club had rallied around Ablett, saying he was "loved" by his teammates and coaches.
He added that the Suns had done everything in their power to help Ablett with his off-field issues, which Cochrane described as "an ongoing situation".
Asked how the Suns would respond if, at the end of next year, Ablett told them he would retire if he wasn't traded, Cochrane said they would have "a sensible, whole-of-club discussion".
Cameron Mooney, a premiership teammate of Ablett's at Geelong, doesn't expect Ablett to retire at the end of 2017, saying he'd seen no more competitive person.
However, Mooney suggested Ablett might be questioning whether his heart was still in the Gold Coast venture and was perhaps considering his life after football.
"He is a very religious person, Gary, and he does a lot of religious things away from the football field. Is that something he's really looking at doing post-career?" Mooney told SEN.
Mooney said Ablett wouldn't be distracted by the ongoing speculation – as he showed in 2010 when rumours were rampant that he would become the new franchise's marquee player – but that his teammates would bear the burden of constant questioning until the matter was resolved.
"We saw this in 2010 … (when) he arguably had his best year at Geelong. He had over 700 possessions (and) kicked over 40 goals. He had an outstanding year with all that distraction," Mooney said.
"And from a team point of view it didn't distract us because we were a pretty experienced group.
"Will it have that effect on a younger group up there, of being asked about Gary week in and week out, because that's what's going to happen.
"That's the one thing we never tried to do down at Geelong: we always said, 'Don't do or say something that's going to have to make your teammates answer for you.'
"I don't know if he thought that one through. It is going to be a distraction."