LION UP: Luke Hodge provides the Brisbane Lions with an injection of experience.
LION UP: Luke Hodge provides the Brisbane Lions with an injection of experience. AAP - Ric Frearson

Ling sings praise for Hodge as Cats buzz about Ablett return

IT'S surely the biggest ever trade-off in Queensland footy - In: Luke Hodge. Out: Gary Ablett.

Cameron Ling thought he may have been sharing the Channel 7 commentary box with Hodge after the four-time premiership player hung up the boots as a Hawk.

Instead, the 33-year-old was firstly intrigued and then enticed out of retirement to aid in the development work good mate Chris Fagan was undertaking at Brisbane.

"My initial thought was surprise but then I heard him talk about it, got his take on it," said Ling, a long time adversary of Hodge when a Cat.

"The opportunities, the relationship he has with Chris Fagan, yeah understood it absolutely. And I think he'll be terrific for them."

Ling said even if Hodge was only at 80% playing capacity the influence he could provide on and off the field would be "huge".

"To get someone amongst the playing group who can echo what the coach is saying, they all know him and they all look up to him. He's achieved everything there is to achieve in footy, it comes through to that group so much quicker," Ling said. "It will allow Chris Fagan to be even more effective in his job as coach."

Hodge had spent time in the commentary box over the past couple of years, but his future looks clear when he does finally retire once and for all.

"I thought I was going to be able to work with him at Channel 7, which would have been nice," Ling said.

"But I think, in the long run, coaching is what he will be exceptional at. He's just got those leadership qualities."

 

Gary Ablett will play in Round 1. Picture: Glenn Ferguson
Gary Ablett will play in Round 1. Picture: Glenn Ferguson

 

Ablett, meanwhile, has headed 'home' to Geelong after seven seasons on the Gold Coast. He had spent his first nine years playing alongside good friend Ling.

The player Ling regards as the "best of the modern era" is set to run out as a Cat again on Sunday against Melbourne at the MCG.

"You ask anyone in the football department, they want to play it down, it's all about the 22," Ling said. "You ask anyone in the membership department, it's been a buzz."

No three current players have accumulated more Brownlow votes than two-time winner Ablett (234), Geelong skipper and former runner-up Joel Selwood (181) and 2016 winner Patrick Dangerfield (165).

"I'm intrigued as anyone to see how it all plays out. I think he'll have a great year," Ling said of 33-year-old Ablett.

"Knowing how competitive he is. He hasn't just come back for a bit of superannuation."


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