GARY Ablett says he may have subconsciously been protecting his body through the first six rounds of the season.
But the dual Brownlow medallist says he is working his way back and believes he can recapture the form that made him the game's pre-eminent player.
In a candid conversation, Ablett said the shoulder, knee and foot injuries suffered in the past two years had made him a more rounded person but challenged his confidence in his body.
Although his stats are solid in 2016 – 28 disposals, 12 contested and six clearances a game – the Gold Coast skipper conceded he needs to improve.
"I think it was partly shoulder and a few other niggles I've had as well," Ablett said.
"For me it's just a matter of getting that confidence back. I've missed so much footy. I know I play my best football when I'm in-and-under, winning the contested ball.
"I've been challenged by the boys about that.
"Whether it's subconsciously I'm trying to protect the body, I'm not quite sure.
"For me it's about implementing some of those drills at training, doing some contested work and making sure I am really confident in my body going into a game. I'm going to be working on that."
Ablett said he still had the passion to be the best – "but it probably hasn't shown in the first six weeks of football" – and still placed higher expectations on himself than anyone else could.
He said he had to start putting more confidence in his teammates who were entering the prime of their careers, but still wanted to lead by example.
"I still feel I've got plenty of good footy left in me, but some would disagree," he said.
"It's not that I go in with the attitude of "just got to get through this game".
"I want to perform out there, I want to do everything I possibly can to help the team win, but whether it's a subconscious thing that I'm going in there and trying to protect my body a little bit more or whatever it is, I'm not too sure.
"I'm confident I can get back to playing the type of footy I know I can play.
"I don't think I've been too bad. There's some areas that I need to work on and I'll be continuing to do that."
Ablett copped plenty of attention in the Suns' 20-goal loss. Picture: AFL Media