Gary Robert Ablett Snr
1 October 1961 (age 61)
Place of birth
Drouin, VIC (3818)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 20y 184d
Last game: 34y 343d
Height and weight
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 97 kg
State of origin
Geoff Ablett (Brother)Kevin Ablett (Brother)Gary Ablett Jnr (Son)Nathan Ablett (Son)Luke Ablett (Nephew)Shane Tuck (Nephew)Travis Tuck (Nephew)Ryan Ablett (Nephew)Michael Tuck (Brother-in-law)Len Ablett (Second cousin)Alf Williamson (Great uncle)
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
AFL: 9,328th player to appear, 284th most games played, 6th most goals kickedHawthorn: 683rd player to appear, 692nd most games played, 348th most goals kickedGeelong: 834th player to appear, 25th most games played, 1st most goals kicked
A brilliant forward line player, Ablett is strong both on the ground and in the air and thrills spectators with his explosive pace and long penetrating kicks.¹
The mercurial Gary Ablett (number 5 in the adjacent photograph) was one of the most supremely gifted footballers ever to play the game, and yet he might easily have been lost to top level football for good after a disastrous debut season with Hawthorn in 1982. Unable to settle in the city, Ablett played just six matches - mainly as a wingman - that year before ‘retiring’ back to the bush and Ovens and Murray Football League club Myrtleford.
Geelong managed to lure Ablett back to the big time in 1984 and this time he knuckled down to become, eventually, arguably football’s biggest superstar of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Ablett’s spectacularly eye-catching style of play made the ‘superstar’ tag sit comfortably. Few players in the game’s history have combined such extravagant high marking skills, explosive pace, and prodigious two-sided kicking ability, much of it attributed to his inordinately high concentration of ‘fast twitch’ muscles.
A notoriously poor trainer, this did not prevent him from producing football of unparalleled genius on match days. Early in his career in particular, it was sometimes said that he was susceptible under pressure, but this was belied by a sequence of consistently brilliant performances for the Big V, and most notably of all by his stunning best afield performance in a losing team in the 1989 VFL grand final against Hawthorn. Ablett did virtually everything short of winning the match off his own boot that day, marking almost everything that came his way, and booting a grand final record nine goals as the Cats got to within six points of achieving a major upset.
Towards the end of his career, when it appeared that he was beginning to slow down slightly, he began to play almost exclusively at the goalfront, and with tallies of 124 goals in 1993, 129 in 1994 and 122 in 1995 secured the Coleman Medal on three successive occasions. He was Geelong’s leading goal kicker nine times, and achieved AFL All Australian selection in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Ablett only won Geelong’s top accolade once, in his debut season of 1984. However, some players arguably transcend objective forms of commendation like best and fairest awards, and Gary Ablett was most emphatically one of those.
When he retired at the end of the 1996 season he had added 242 senior league games for Geelong to the half a dozen he had played with the Hawks. All but ten of his career tally of 1,031 goals were booted for the Cats. Ablett’s interstate career comprised 11 state of origin games for Victoria. In 2001 he was named on a half forward flank in Geelong’s official ‘Team of the Century’. Gary Ablett’s brothers Geoff and Kevin also played VFL football, while his son, Gary Ablett junior, has to date more than lived up to his name, stamping himself as one of the genuinely great performers of the twenty-first century.
Author - John Devaney
1. VFL Yearbook 1985, page 5.