WITH a "better prepared" Matt Rowell about to rejoin the ranks, Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew is confident there will be no repeat of the late-season fadeouts that have dogged the Suns in recent years.
Rowell got through Wednesday's main training session at Metricon Stadium and is expected to be selected to play Fremantle on Saturday – his first game since suffering a knee injury in round one.
The former No.1 draft pick is not the only welcome return, with Jack Bowes (hamstring) and Sam Day (knee) also available, although the latter could make his way back through the VFL.
SUNS BOOST Rowell poised to make long-awaited return
Gold Coast has 44 fit players to select from against the injury-ravaged Dockers, a far cry from previous years when the medical room number has regularly hit double digits.
The Suns have won just one of 25 matches following the mid-season bye since Dew took over in 2018.
"We certainly are looking forward to the next part of the season," Dew said.
"Physically they're more mature. Mentally as well, a little more seasoned, a bit more hardened.
"I feel we have grown our depth through this period because with four or five long-term injuries, that's four or five more players that have played another six to eight games.
"To run the year out there's some guys coming back in that will be fresh that have missed some footy and then there's some guys that have had good exposure.
"It's just lived experiences together and we've had a great number of players go through it."
One of those fresh bodies is Rowell, who ran in the strongest midfield as the Suns played match simulation on Wednesday.
Dew said the powerful onballer had virtually undergone another pre-season as he prepared to come back.
"He's ready, he's absolutely ready," Dew said.
"Physically his body is better prepared than what it was leading into round one.
MEDICAL ROOM The full AFL injury list
"Once he was out of the brace he's done a lot of work in the weights room and on his running, getting his body better prepared.
"In some sense he's probably fitter than he was leading into the season.
"We're just excited he can play a game of footy again and the most excited person is Rowelly himself, which is great to see, it just shows what footy means to him and it's good to see that spring in his step again."
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