IF THERE was any question Jarrod Witts was Gold Coast's most important player, the Suns' co-captain has put that to bed in the first month of the season.
Witts missed all but three matches in 2021 after suffering a ruptured ACL, and despite its best efforts to cover him, Gold Coast's season was doomed.
Now back in the fold after 11 months of rehabilitation, the 29-year-old has reminded everyone of his influence, capped by Sunday's dominant outing against Carlton.
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The Blues were without regular ruckman Marc Pittonet (back injury), and Witts made hay, gathering 16 disposals, including six clearances, and most importantly giving his midfielders first access to the ball with his skilful tap work.
One of the beneficiaries was Therabody AFL All-Australian Touk Miller, who bounced back from a down showing the previous week against Greater Western Sydney to rack up 32 touches.
"He really does play a strong brand of football," Miller told AFL.com.au of Witts.
"He's hard, he follows up, he's really solid in the ruck and his leadership is really strong.
"It gives you a sense of confidence when he's out there knowing what you're going to get from him.
"I'm just looking forward to what he's going to do for the rest of the year."
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Witts had just about the toughest re-introduction possible this year, facing Nic Naitanui, Max Gawn and Braydon Preuss in his first three matches.
He excelled against the two All-Australians and has more hitouts to advantage (49) through the first four rounds than any player in the competition.
Miller said having a dominant ruckman allowed him, Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell and the other Suns midfielders to be a bit more proactive around the stoppages, an area they destroyed Carlton in 43-27.
"I know he didn't have the week he wanted last week, but you have to remember he's coming off an injury for 12 months, so he's not going to play perfect footy," Miller said.
"It's just special to see he's got the ability to come back, that his rehab was really good … and now the world's his oyster.
"He can take on the comp. He's one of the best in the comp, I believe."