It’s okay. I may as well accept it. He’s gone, forever.
So there it is. I have finally come to terms with every Geelong supporters nightmare-turned-reality. Gary Ablett Jr has left the building. Yeah, I’m emphasising the Junior again, I’m that petty. Truth is he left the building months ago and is now part of the furniture on the Gold Coast. So far they’ve recruited a bunch of kids, a superstar, a tough nut from Hawthorn and a rugby player. I like the name ‘Suns’ though, so good for them.
Gary Ablett Jr is one of the most exciting Geelong players ever. I know, I know..that’s like saying Charlie Sheen likes a party, or Ricky Ponting could do with some time in the middle. He wasn’t exciting like a Mark holy-hell-just-get-rid-of-it Blake, or Ben Graham, who I didn’t care what he did as long as he tried to kick every ball 75 metres. No, Gary was something else. Seeing him in a Geelong jumper was always a treat. He was the son of Geelong royalty, he’d grown up around Kardinia Park, he was an Ablett.
My Geelong mates are freaking out that our best player is gone, that the empire is done, rebuild, rebuild, rebuild they say. I understand all that. In a league where dynasties are almost impossible, it makes sense. But if you think back to the glory years of 2007, 2008 and 2009, the overriding feeling was that this bunch of players put the team first and nobody made excuses. That’s why they won. Well, that’s one of the reasons anyway. Brad Ottens epic Preliminary Final of ‘07 didn’t hurt, either. Perhaps his departure will help the Cats.
(I’m just re-reading my last sentence)
I loved it when he was drafted, and I really hate that he’s left. And I will never, ever, forget the years in between. I hope someday to sit down with my kids and tell them about the Geelong years from 2007 to 2010. I can’t wait to embellish the truth, but with him I won’t need to. It’s in the books, look it up. Three Grand Finals, two Premierships, one Brownlow Medal(should be at least two!), three MVP awards, four All Australian sides. Part of possibly the greatest midfield combination ever seen.
But statistics alone will never capture the experience of being a Geelong fan for this period. Every time the Cats ran through the banner, we the fans knew something special was about to happen. I would move closer to the edge of my seat, usually with my phone in my hand ready to call someone, shrieking ‘did you just see that!’. This happened so many times my friends knew not to answer.
In person…wow. Normally at football games you watch the play as it happens. With Gary, you watched him. You tried to work out what he was thinking, how he got there, and what his next move was. But he was always a split second ahead of everyone else. How does he do that?
Who could forget the game against Port Adelaide in 2007, a game which we lost, when Ablett kicked a goal with a few seconds remaining to put us in the lead. I can still see it. It was magic. He received a handball, sold the dummy to two players, darted between another two and drilled it from the forward pocket. It was straight from his old mans playbook. Check it out.
I watched it with my Dad, we just looked at each other in amazement, speechless. As the Geelong faithful simultaneously lose their minds in the stands, the commentators forget they are on air, caught in the moment like the rest of us. Tim Watson finally offers ‘well the cream just rises to the top’ How does he do that?
I will never forget watching him run rings around opposition players, rendering them, his own teammates and the commentators as spectators. My top three Gary Ablett moments all arrived in the 2007 season(I defy anyone to come up with only a top 3).
Round 21 v Port Adelaide.
Okay, we lost. But it was a hell of a game and with one electric play, when he kicked that goal, the world was a beautiful place. It’s the last time I watched a game with my Dad, and to watch him laugh maniacally like The Joker after stitching up Batman with a fiendish plan still resonates. Not even the original and still the best Gary Ablett received such a response.
Preliminary Final v Collingwood
This was it, the Cats were being challenged, the game was on the line. After coldly dismantling everyone in the league the pesky Magpies were being their usual annoying self and causing me and many others great heartache. Despite Brad Ottens all round dominance and the smother of all smothers by Joel Corey, this was the moment when Gaz became a man. After a short throw in, Ablett scooped the ball up, took on a Collingwood player, ran across the ground and snapped from forty. Everyone saw it unfold, everyone knew he was going to kick it, and everyone said the same thing ‘aww..awwwww…awwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!’ It was awesome. And Brian Taylor nailed it on the head with his immortal line ‘GARY ABLETT STEPS TO THE BIG STAGE AND KICKS THE CRUNCH GOAL OF THE YEAR’.
Grand Final v Port Adelaide
Sorry, Port Adelaide. That first quarter was one of the most wretched displays of football I’ve seen. I’m so happy it happened against the Cats. It was all over after Gaz intercepted a kick and nailed the goal from close range. Years of heartache and pent up emotions were let loose, the carton of Corona in my fridge was thinning out by the minute, and yours truly was in sporting nirvana. And it was still the first quarter! (It was only topped by being on a roll in Vegas in 2009 and watching the game against the Saints. I really need a replay of that, I still can’t remember much apart from a Max Rooke tackle early, a toe poke, and the Coach going ape in the coaches box at the siren).
So now it’s over. Done. He’s gone. We didn’t want him to leave, but he did anyway. That’s the thing about football, you rarely get what you want. You win some and then you lose some, and so it goes. The team will never be the same, but what I do know is this, Geelong will always be my team, they will always be the most exhilarating team to follow, and they’ll always be the Greatest Team Of All.
So good luck to you Gary Junior, I wish you success and happiness. Though if you never get a kick against the Cats, that’s alright by me too.
It’s okay. I may as well accept it. He’s gone, forever.