If he had his time again, Geelong coach Chris Scott would have rested veteran superstar Gary Ablett on occasions during 2019.
It’s a state of affairs unlikely to be repeated this year, even in what is now a truncated campaign.
After a flying start to last season, Ablett’s form tailed off significantly, with the Cats eventually bowing out in a preliminary final to Richmond.
Scott still suspects that Ablett was carrying a hamstring complaint during the finals campaign, although the two-time Brownlow medallist has denied it.
As it turned out, Ablett was not officially rested at all last year with the only match he missed being the 22-point win over Sydney in round 11 due to suspension.
Now in his 19th – and in all probability his last – season, the 36-year-old is scheduled to reach the 350-game milestone at home against former club Gold Coast in round five.
Before the COVID-19 crisis saw the home-and-away season cut from 22 rounds to 17, Ablett flagged the prospect of sitting out some matches to manage his body.
That is still the general plan, even with fewer games and shorter quarters.
“We want him at his best when he plays and we don’t want to put him in a position where he has got to labour through soreness or get involved in the grind of an AFL season,” Scott told reporters on Wednesday.
“We want to remove that for him and a couple of our other players so we can have him at his best when it really counts, if we’re lucky enough to get that far.
“He clearly understands that, but it doesn’t really clear up the end of last year for me completely.”
Ablett has been among the Cats’ best in their opening two games against GWS and Hawthorn.
He is the third-oldest current AFL player behind only ageless Hawk Shaun Burgoyne and evergreen Carlton defender Kade Simpson.
After thumping Hawthorn by 61 points last weekend, the Cats will make few – if any – changes for Saturday’s home clash against Carlton.
They will amost certainly hold back boom off-season recruit Jack Steven for another week, with the four-time St Kilda best and fairest winner likely to play in the earlier scratch match.
Luckless forward Nakia Cockatoo, who has managed only two senior matches in the previous two seasons due to injury, will also feature in the practice game against the Carlton players who did not earn senior selection.
“We’re playing the long-term game with Nakia and I’m still confident he’ll be a good long-term player for us,” said Scott.
Defender Jake Kolodjashnij has recovered from a hip injury and is set to join Steven and Cockatoo in the reserves clash.