GOLD Coast captain Gary Ablett will make his long-awaited return from injury next Saturday when the Suns take on North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium.
The 31-year-old, who had a left shoulder reconstruction last August, was ruled out indefinitely to nurse his troublesome shoulder after struggling to make an impact in the opening two rounds of the season.
Ablett was close to being named for the Suns' clash against Carlton on Sunday, but the decision to postpone his comeback for another week was made in conjunction with the club's medical staff.
The 31-year-old said he was almost certain to take the field against the Kangaroos provided he got through the required contact training drills.
"I will be there next week," Ablett told radio station 3AW on Sunday afternoon.
"It's been a frustrating couple of months but I feel I've done everything I need to get the shoulder right to get back out there.
"I wasn't far off (to being named against the Blues) but the medical staff felt like I needed another week of contact work just to make sure that my shoulder could hold up to the rigours of football.
"I'll be out there next week (and) I'm really looking forward to it."
Ablett's comeback would be timely for the Suns, who have endured a horror injury run this season with key midfielders Jaeger O'Meara, Dion Prestia and David Swallow among the wounded.
The dual Brownlow medallist acknowledged he was "hurt" by the criticism he had received from some – including Brisbane Lions champion Jonathan Brown – who called for him to play through pain if he was declared fit.
"There's no doubt it hurt, especially when you've got ex-footballers that have played a lot of games (and) they've been through that before," Ablett said.
"If I see an article like that, I'll take out of it what I can, I'll talk to people around me whose opinions I really respect and if there's some changes that need to be made to make me a better leader and a better person then I'm open to that feedback and that criticism.
"With a lot of the articles that have been written, a lot of it's not (the) truth … I'll make sure when I'm back, I'll let my footy do the talking."