“I would back in Gary in no matter what game he goes into, to be honest, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt playing against opposition,” Mackie said.

“We don’t play until next Sunday so there are probably a couple of sessions next week he gets to get involved [in].”

Hot potato: Gary Ablett, right, handballs to Dan Hannebery during a skills session at the AFL’s Gold Coast transition hub. Credit:Getty Images

Collingwood re-introduced Jaidyn Stephenson into the team for last season’s qualifying final after a 10-match suspension, while Hawthorn’s Cyril Rioli played in the 2014 premiership after returning from an injury suffered in June.

Ablett has not played since mid-July, when the Cats lost to Collingwood in Perth, as he returned to Victoria for family reasons. He is almost certain to return although the competition for spots within the Cats’ forward line is strong, with Brad Close, Tom Atkins, Luke Dahlhaus and Gryan Miers at Tom Hawkins and Gary Rohan’s feet.

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Ablett is in Queensland with his wife Jordan and son Levi as he prepares to return to the team environment. Mackie said only Ablett could say how he was travelling but was full of admiration for his approach.

“He’s a good friend and I’ve enjoyed hanging out with him so much over this last little journey,” Mackie said.

“He’s focused on what he’s got to do with his footy.

“Him and Jordan and little Levi are a great family and we’re all enjoying seeing the love and care that they’re providing to him.”

Mackie is ready to hand over the old car to those whom can fine-tune Ablett even further.

“We’ve done our bit, we’re trying to get him to where we think is a really good spot and, to Gary’s credit, he has bought into that,” Mackie said.

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