Gary Ablett, Senior Champion Professional VFL Player
Gary Robert Ablett Senior is a renowned professional Australian Rules football player who served the Geelong Football Club for most of his playing career.
The now retired footballer was a prolific goal kicker and marker of the ball, which is evident from his lifetime career statistics of 1030 goals from 248 games.
Ablett was an exemplary sportsman from an early age and wrapped up many best and fairest awards for Drouin in the Under 11 and Under 14 competitions.
He soon joined his brothers Geoff and Kevin in the Drouin senior team and then went on to join Hawthorn Football Club. Kevin Ablett went on to play for Hawthorn, Richmond and Geelong while Geoff Ablett played for Hawthorn, Richmond and St Kilda.
Gary Ablett, Sr. made his debut in the senior Hawthorn team in 1982 but did not feel comfortable settling down in the city.
The next year he relocated to Myrtleford. However, Hawthorn’s loss proved to be Geelong’s gain since the Geelong Football Club managed to sign him up for their Victorian Football League (VFL) side in 1984.
Gary Ablett Senior debuted for the Cats in Round 7 and never looked back in his career with the club over the next 12 years. He was also selected for Victoria for the State of Origin game. At the end of the 1984 VFL season He had 33 goals from 15 games and was awarded the Carjik Greeves Medal for the best and fairest player of the year.
The Geelong Contract
His next two seasons were just as fruitful where he finished with 82 goals in the 1985 season and notched up 65 goals in 1986. His contract with Geelong expired at the end of the 1987 season.
Although everyone expected him to stay on, he went ahead and agreed to a five-year contract with Hawthorn. After much deliberation and negotiations, Geelong offered him a lucrative five-year contract and managed to retain his services.
Gary Ablett, Sr. obliged his club with 59 goals from his first 11 games in the 1988 season. I0 goals came in a match against Richmond while he ended up with scoring 11 goals in a game against Brisbane. For the second time in his career, his tally at the end of the 1988 season was 82 goals.
Malcolm Blight, former North Melbourne star player took over as coach of the Geelong side in 1989. Ablett was at his best and was instrumental in the Cats’ ten match winning streak.
In a massive 134-point victory against Richmond, he broke the club’s 22-year record by scoring 14 goals. He kicked three goals in the Qualifying Final against Essendon, a game which Geelong lost by 76 points which set them up for an encounter with Melbourne in a sudden-death semi final.
The Cats posted a 63-point win with seven goals coming from Ablett, which had the team all fired up for another meeting with Essendon in the Preliminary Final.
Geelong avenged their earlier defeat and advanced to the Grand Final with a 94-point victory over Essendon. Ablett asserted himself from the start, kicked four goals in the first half and five in the second half of the Grand Final.
However, Geelong failed to drive home ahead, losing one of the toughest Grand Finals in the history of the game by 6 points. His 9 goals earned him the Norm Smith Medal.
Personal issues, injuries and the lack of motivation took a toll on Gary Ablett, Sr. in the 1990 season. he was only 29 in 1991 but shocked football fans by announcing his retirement due to personal reasons. However, well wishers encouraged him to return and he was back in action in Round 12 of the 1991 season for the Geelong reserves team.
In Round 13, he was back in the senior side but failed to regain form and ended the season with 28 goals from 12 appearances.
Coming Back Strong
Gary Ablett, Sr. came back strongly in the 1992 seasons and focused on his fitness. His efforts paid off as he helped Geelong win 11 games out of 15 in the first half of the year. The Cats made it to the Grand Final against the West Coast Eagles.
However, they failed to build up momentum in the second half and eventually lost by 28 points, with Ablett kicking 3 goals in the match. For the 1993 season, Coach Malcolm Blight encouraged Ablett to move to full-forward from his usual roaming half-forward. This proved to be just the right move.
He was soon back to his goal kicking habits and equaled Bob Pratt’s sixty-year record of 50 goals from just six games. Eight games later, he doubled his tally and became the first Cats player to kick 100 goals since Larry Donohue in 1976.
With 124 goals at the end of the season from just 17 appearances, it is not surprising he earned his first Coleman Medal and the AFLPA MVP award, and AFLMA Player of the Year Award.
Winning the Coleman Medal
It was a full forward position for Gary Ablett, Sr. in 1994 and 1995, where wining the Coleman Medal became a habit. His explosive pace and skills peaked during these seasons. He became the only player in the history of the VFL/AFL to kick 100 goals in three consecutive seasons and win the Coleman Medal as well.
He was also a talented aerialist and his 1994 Mark of the Year over Collingwood’s Gary Pert was captured in a painting by Jamie Cooper that was commissioned by the AFL in 2008 as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations.
A Glorious Career
A five game suspension at the start of the 1996 season cut short Gary Ablett, Sr.’s intentions of a fruitful season. Later, he admitted that it was probably the beginning of the end of his career. He finished the season with 69 goals from 17 games. Ablett played his final AFL game against North Melbourne in the Qualifying Final, which the Cats lost by 60 points.
A knee injury in a VFL game at the beginning of the 1997 season forced Ablett to call it quits, announcing his retirement from the AFL at the end of the season. However, Ablett could be nothing less than proud of his glorious career and impressive statistics where he played 248 of a possible 377 games and scored 1030 goals.
AFL Team of the Century and Hall of Fame
Gary Ablett, Sr. is known for his strength, speed and skills that allowed him to become a formidable force on the field.
In 11 State appearances, he kicked 43 goals and averaged 4 goals per game in his 16 finals. No one has come near to his record of 27 goals in the 1989 finals series, for which he received the Norm Smith Medal.
He also joined the elite club of players that includes Gordon Coventry, Jason Dunstal, Tony Lockett and Doug Wade to kick 1000 VFL/AFL goals.
Gary Ablett, Sr. also made it to the AFL Team of the Century in 1996 alongside Jack Dyer and Greg Williams. He was named in the Geelong Team of the Century in 2001. In 2005, he was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame and was honoured once again a year, beating Graham Farmer with the most votes as the Greatest Geelong player of all-time. A
t the newly renovated Skilled Stadium a terrace has been named in his honour.
Gary Ablett, Sr. has a son, Gary Ablett Jr., who isn’t far behind with fans already comparing the two. However, Ablett Jr. who plays for the Suns has a long way to go in his career. Ablett Jr. cuts straight to the point, claiming his father to be the greatest player.
Besides, Ablett Sr. will always have some great advice for his son. For fans of Gary Ablett Sr. he is still referred to as Superman and god. He had the ability to kick as strongly with both feet. His strengths lay in his shoulders, arms and legs that allowed him to stand his ground against the fieriest opponent.
Ablett also made it to seven All Australian sides.