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Ben Guthrie - AFL Media  February 8, 2018 4:42 PM

Gary Ablett Jnr starred in Thursday's match simulation - Geelong Cats,Gary Ablett

Gary Ablett Jnr starred in Thursday's match simulation

THOSE who thought Gary Ablett would not be the same player in his second stint at Geelong might be mistaken.

Ablett was at his sensational best during a lengthy three-and-a-half-hour training session at Deakin University - with a major focus on match simulation – on Thursday.

Wearing a white cap, and sporting his familiar hunched-over pose, Ablett, 33 found the ball with ease in the midfield and showed zero signs of the shoulder injury or the soft tissue injuries that plagued his last four seasons at Gold Coast. 

With superstar Cat Patrick Dangerfield not participating in the full-ground match simulation, having nursed a sore back in recent weeks, Ablett’s delivery to his teammates - particularly going inside forward 50 - was first class.

He waxed closely with skipper Joel Selwood, with the pair combining out of stoppages on a number of occasions, and was able to use his poise and nous in traffic to get the ball advancing his team’s way.

Teammate Mitch Duncan said he had already seen the impact the dual Brownlow medallist could have on Geelong in 2018. 

"He hasn't taken a backward step that's for sure," Duncan said.

"He has just taken off where he left off when he was at the Cats and his seven years up at Gold Coast were some of his best years as well.

"He's brought it down here and he’s been a joy to have down on the track." 

Dangerfield was limited to work with the rehab group initially, which included change of direction and speed-based training, before joining in some contact work when the Cats worked on their defensive structures towards the end of training.

It is understood the Brownlow medallist is nearing a return to full training, with the Cats' medical staff being cautious with his body at this time of year. 

Fellow midfielder Sam Menegola's ability to use his strong aerobic capacity to work up and down the ground, and the way he hauled in grabs inside 50, made him one of the standouts of the session, while second-year youngster Brandan Parfitt linked up well through half-forward.

In what was a game between a team wearing red training guernseys and the Cats’ new sleeved-AFLX style t-shirt, there was a real emphasis on the players to get the ball moving quickly. 

That style suited first-year forward Gryan Miers, who led up well and got used a couple of times across half-forward. 

At one stage during the session, Wylie Buzza - fighting for the second-tall forward spot alongside Tom Hawkins - launched a set-shot goal from inside the centre square.

Forward Daniel Menzel’s cleverness also shone through and his ball use going inside 50 underlined his class.

Duncan, who averaged 29.1 disposals per game as a primary onballer last season, said he was looking forward to seeing how the midfield dynamic worked with Ablett, Selwood and Dangerfield all running through there.

"I might get pushed to the pine," Duncan said laughing.

"You could name 10 to 12 players who could go through there, so it's going to be tight for spots which is good but that builds competitiveness and a trust in your group."

Jordan Murdoch pulled up tight early in the session and went back and worked with the rehab group after being looked at by medical staff, while James Parsons had a large ice pack on his hip area after copping a knock. 

Geelong begins its AFLX campaign against Port Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide, in the first game of the high-octane tournament, on Thursday evening.