Ling backing old Cats mate Ablett to hit his peak
APART from maybe a Geelong premiership, the thing Cameron Ling most wants to see in the 2017 season is his old mate Gary Ablett return to the heights of yesteryear.
The pair spent a decade playing together at Geelong, most notably in the 2007 and 2009 premiership wins.
While Ablett is entering his seventh season at the Gold Coast, and Ling returns for another stint in the Channel Seven commentary box, they remain close, with each attending one another's wedding in the past year.
Ablett hasn't played since round 16 last season when he suffered another setback to his shoulder.
The 32-year-old has now played just 35 games in the past three seasons since winning a second Brownlow Medal in 2013.
"We catch up whenever I'm up there or he does pop down," Ling told News Regional Media.
"I'm excited as anyone (about his return).
"I just want him to have a full year without any injury. I just want to see what he can do again."
What he can do, as he has shown throughout his 288-game career, is win games off his own boot through relentless effort and sublime skills.
But arguably the greatest player this century has been cut down and left as nothing more than a spectator more often than not.
"He was smack bang in his prime - his prime had been going for a long time mind you - when he had that first injury, the shoulder (in 2014)," Ling said.
"Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I just feel like he'll get back there again.
"It's crazy considering his age now. But if he gets anywhere near back to that level ... geez, it's good to watch. It's great for the whole competition. I just want him to have that chance.
"If his body holds up he could ... it might not be absolute 100% Gary Ablett of old, but it's still All-Australian-type form, even with a couple of years out of the game."
Ablett certainly has the genes to continue for a few more years with his dad, Gary Snr, still kicking bags of goals in his mid-30s.
Ling expected Ablett's preparation to be second- to-none.
"He's always looked after his body really well," Ling said. "His focus on recovery and attention to detail and all of that is outstanding and always has been."
With established midfielders Pearce Hanley (Brisbane), Michael Barlow (Fremantle) and Jarryd Lyons (Adelaide) arriving, Suns coach Rodney Eade may be tempted to push Ablett forward more.
But Ling doesn't quite subscribe to that theory.
"He would be dangerous up forward. He could kick you 40 or 50 (goals in a season) pretty easily.
"But, I still reckon having him around the ball is the best thing for the team.
"He's still, in my eyes, the best onballer in the team ... and if gets back near his best, the best onballer in the competition."
Ablett is one of seven players left playing from the so-called 'super draft' of 2001, the others being Luke Hodge, James Kelly, Steve Johnson, Sam Mitchell, Leigh Montagna and Jarrad Waite.