HE TURNS 31 in May and is still nursing his shoulder, but that hasn't stopped Gold Coast superstar Gary Ablett clocking a personal best in the Suns' two-kilometre time trial.
In a performance that will lift the spirits of Gold Coast supporters everywhere, Ablett proved his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery hadn't slowed him down on his second day back at training on Friday.
Still on a modified training program after his season was cut short by a dislocated shoulder in round 16, Ablett dug deep in the gruelling fitness test to shave a few seconds of his best ever mark.
"It was his best by only a second or two, but that was a really good sign because he has been in rehab a fair bit," Suns coach Rodney Eade told the Gold Coast Bulletin.
"It is the first one he has done (since the operation) and he's already got a PB."
Keen to get a jump-start on pre-season, Ablett returned to training four days early in mid-November and has advanced to full-ground skills drills with the Suns' main group.
The two-time Brownlow medallist took some overhead marks during training on Friday and later tweeted he would "Start full contact work late Feb".
Ablett and the Suns are hopeful he will then play a part in the NAB Challenge campaign, starting against Geelong on March 1 and ending at home against the Brisbane Lions on March 20.
But in the meantime the 268-game champion has been challenged to keep building his fitness.
"We've given him a target to get to by the end of January – all the players have – so we want him to get the time down a bit further now," Eade said.
The new coach has been pleased with the shape of his squad on their return to pre-season training, particularly ruckmen Daniel Gorringe and Zac Smith.
Gorringe won the first division of the time trial ahead of Kade Kolodjashnij and rookie Josh Glenn, before Smith took the honours in the second group.
"We're happy with the way the players have come back from the break," Eade said.
"They were all in range of what we set for skinfolds and I reckon 80 per cent were in range of what we set for the trial.
"But to have two tall men do what they did was a good sign. If they can run like that it's a huge advantage."
Meanwhile, the Suns confirmed mature-age rookie Andrew Raines would not have surgery after he strained his posterior cruciate ligament on Wednesday.
The injury was a bitter blow to the 28-year-old midfielder, who is hoping to reignite his career at a third club after 123 games for Richmond and the Brisbane Lions.
"He'll be eight to 10 weeks but we're confident it will be closer to eight," Eade said.