You probably thought it impossible. You probably thought there was no way Gary Ablett - two-time Brownlow medallist, five-time MVP, five-time best and fairest winner - could become an even more perfect player. You were wrong.
Ablett has proven himself in every conceivable area since he stepped things up at Geelong eight years ago, and even more so since taking Gold Coast's teenage troupe under his wing four years ago.
But this year, the rising 30-year-old is improving in four areas. In the first six games of the season Ablett has won an average of 18.3 contested possessions, up from his previous best of 15.1 in 2011. He is clearing the ball 8.5 times a game, up from a 6.7 best in his first year in red and yellow. He is tackling more than ever, wrapping 6.7 players up this year. Last year, he averaged 4.6, with his 5.9 average in 2011 his previous best effort. Incredibly, his scoring accuracy this year is 90.9 per cent; in his first three years at the Suns 57.8 was his best.
None of this has come through any deliberate focus.Gold Coast's midfield coach Matthew Primus said Ablett wanted to be the Suns' best player now and their best in five years, while helping those around him get better. And his contested possession count has not stopped David Swallow, Dion Prestia, Jaeger O'Meara and others from getting their hands dirtier with each passing season.
That Ablett had a player on his back almost every time he reached for the ball, said Primus, meant many of his possessions were earned under pressure. That he's so good at identifying when his team needs him to get the ball - and then getting it - helped too.
"As a team we've focused on our contested possessions, because it helps us stay in games longer. And there's no doubt that, even over the last couple of weeks, Gary knows when games are slipping away from us or when our intensity's dropping, and he's very good at winning balls at key moments in games," Primus said.
"Most of the time he does have someone in his back pocket, so to do what he does around contests is outstanding. His tackles stick, he's really good at stripping the opposition of the ball, and some of the games we've played have been pretty wet and slippery, so that might have contributed as well."
Since Ablett joined the Gold Coast, and was required to do almost everything, his future has sounded so luxurious. More time in the forward line, kicking goals. More space, as O'Meara, Swallow, Harley Bennell and others start to draw heavier tags. No more need to do everything, but more time in which to do it all.
The Suns want their young midfielders to keep learning how to both win the ball and use it. So far, so good. But they don't see Ablett as standing in the way of their development, more showing them how to do what they all want to continue getting better at.
"We'd like Gary to not get crashed and bashed as much as he does, but it will slowly turn around. At the moment, him winning it in close usually ends up in a possession to us, but our midfield group's synergy is getting better and better and more of that work is getting shared around," Primus said.
"You'd think that as we mature as a team, it's going to make his job easier. Other guys will learn to win their own ball and, as they become better skilled and take better care of the ball, Gary might become even more dangerous.
"He's just such a competitor. It doesn't matter what anyone says to him - that he's getting older, that his body will get sore - he doesn't believe any of it and he wants to be our best player for as long as he can be."