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Ablett the forward to focus on quality over quantity

Gary Ablett plans to spend most of his time in the forward line in 2019 - AFL,Geelong Cats,Gary Ablett,Mitch Duncan
Gary Ablett plans to spend most of his time in the forward line in 2019

A CONVERSATION between Geelong coach Chris Scott and Gary Ablett in the off-season set the wheels in motion for the star midfielder to become a near-permanent forward in 2019.

According to Champion Data, Ablett spent 29 per cent of his time as a forward in 2018, but that number is set to increase substantially this season. 

"That's where I've been training, down forward. I will spend a little bit of time in the midfield but I think I'll spend the majority of the time down forward this year," Ablett told reporters on the club's community camp in Bannockburn.

"It's going to be a new role for me but a role I'm really looking forward to."

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The 34-year-old (he will turn 35 in May) played 19 matches in his return to the Cattery in 2018, missing four games with a hamstring injury he suffered against West Coast in round three.

Ablett's body held up for the rest of the season but he was not immune to criticism from commentators about the way he performed, particularly following Geelong's early finals exit.

"I sat down with Scotty in the off-season and we just spoke through where he thought and where I thought I was the best fit for the team and how can I help the team win games, and we decided that was going to be down forward," Ablett said. 

"We didn't really talk about prolonging my career; it was more about where I can have the biggest influence for the team."

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Ablett averaged 29.1 disposals for the Cats in 2018, but said his focus on his touches would be geared towards quality, rather than quantity, this season. 

"For me, I pride myself on using the ball well so we (Scott and Ablett) spoke through that I might get half the possessions I'm used to getting but just making sure I'm damaging with those possessions," Ablett said.

With Ablett to play more inside attacking 50, Mitch Duncan forecast that the Cats would use strong, aggressive players at centre bounce stoppages to make the most of the new starting position rules. 

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"I think we've got some really powerful personnel and Patty's a really good example. Quinton Narkle, when he's around the footy, is really powerful and a go-forward player," Duncan said. 

"You get them around the ball and they can give you first look then I think that can be really important. We've got to make it our strength, that's for sure." 

The Cats ranked 17th for centre-bounce clearances in 2019 with 11.5 per game. Top-ranked Melbourne had 14.1 per game.

In Geelong's elimination final loss to Melbourne, the Demons won the centre clearances 13-4. 

 

Ablett falls out of contract at the end of the season but he said a decision on whether he plays on beyond that had not been made.

"I know it is going to end at some stage but my focus is on having the best pre-season I possibly can and doing everything I need to do to give myself the best opportunity of playing all 22 games and hopefully finals footy," Ablett said. 

"I'm not going to move like I could move when I was 23 but I can still improve in areas of my game. For me, a big focus has been my contested work inside forward 50 and those one-on-one contests. 

"Spending a lot of time down forward, I want to make sure I'm winning them and giving our team the best opportunity of scoring."