“They’re all pretty keen. I know the little bald man who sits in the pocket [Ablett] is pretty keen to don the Big V. He missed out in 2008,” Dangerfield said.
“I think any opportunity to represent your state and for a cause such as this is an important one to undertake. His [Ablett’s] body permitting, he’d love to put his hand up. It’s obviously still a few weeks away but, as I said, I don’t think it will too hard to find players and ‘Gaz’ would seem to be one of those.”
Ablett, 36 in May, was unable to play in the 2008 Hall of Fame tribute clash because of a calf injury and is keen to have a taste of an all-star clash before his career is over.
Dangerfield said Ablett had been tracking well through the pre-season but the key was to have the 345-game maestro in excellent health and fitness come September, as he struggled to have the influence he had wanted in last year’s finals campaign.
“It’s been pretty similar to previous pre-seasons with Gaz. He hasn’t missed too many sessions,” Dangerfield said, speaking at the launch of a new five-year deal between the AFL, AFLW and Coles.
“He certainly manages his body at different stages as all 35-year-olds need to do but he’s been out there for the majority of match sim [in pre-season].
“We don’t expect the same from our older players we do our young. We need to manage them where it’s appropriate but I don’t think we’ll necessarily see him in every game. There will be times when he needs a bit of a chop out. We need to make sure he is fit and firing to go for the right time of the year as well.”
Ablett missed only one match last season but may be held to a maximum of 18 this season, in order to have him primed for a tilt at a third flag.
His ball-using ability will be as important as ever, particularly with midfielder Tim Kelly, second in the best and fairest count last year and equal second in 2018, having joined the West Coast Eagles during trade period.
“Tim is going to be incredibly difficult to replace. It’s hard to replace someone like that,” Dangerfield said.
“It will be a mixture of the organic growth that we see from our younger players in our squad, then we have obviously recruited a few players from other clubs as well – Jack Steven being the biggest name there.”
Dangerfield said former Crow Josh Jenkins would split his time alongside Tom Hawkins up forward and acting as relief ruckman.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.