Gary is just fine but Ablett is chasing his tail
He’s gone. Over the course of the season the inevitability of it has been crushing. Now it has happened.
In recent times, each day as I have held my two poodles “Gary” and “Ablett” I have wondered what I will do if and when the day comes. If you can’t teach an old dog new tricks then how on earth can you change his name?
Gary, the older of the pair, has maintained a calm demeanour born of the knowledge that he is named after Gary Snr: an Ablett who will be always only associated with one club.
But the same cannot be said for Ablett who was very definitely named after Junior by my then 4 year old daughter, Bella. Over the last few months Ablett has been restless and ratty. He’s been barking at night and finding it hard to sleep, as have we. He knows he’s a Geelong dog and a red and yellow coat holds no allure for him no matter how much it is worth.
Gary Ablett Senior played his first AFL game for the Cats in 1984, his last in 1996. Junior played his first game in 2001 and now his last in 2010. But for a brief interregnum of four seasons, I – and every Geelong fan – have been watching Gary Ablett perform miracles for Geelong for more than a quarter of a century.
I watched him kick 14 goals from the wing in 1989 against Richmond at the MCG. In the finals series of that same year I saw every one of the four matches which to this day defines the pinnacle of individual achievement in our game. I have a photo in my office of the best mark ever taken over Gary Pert in 1994, which I saw in person.
I also saw Gary Ablett, a fresh faced teenager, dodge and weave in his first game against Essendon in 2001. It wasn’t much back then. He only had a few touches. But what he did have was the unmistakable radiance of magic.
In recent years the magician has perfected his art. His ability to move through the trench warfare of a congested pack and conjure up a possession which sees the ball move with lightening pace to the Geelong goal is not of this world. And of course I’ve watched Gary Ablett accumulate those possessions with productivity on an industrial scale.
What Gary Ablett has meant to me is joy. Nerves before an exam, stress in prosecuting a case, pain after a political defeat, or just a crappy week have all been remedied by just one moment of magic which gives cause to the single collective gasp that has come to be a characteristic of Kardinia Park. And when the moment is over, all that has been in the last seven days simply melts into joy.
The joy that Gary Ablett, in both his guises, has given me is immeasurable. In saying that, I know with certainty, that I speak for an entire city and for so many more.
Of course the sight of Gary Ablett wearing the red and yellow is painful. The joy from now on will belong to others. I hope they know what they have. But as a recipient of that joy over two and a half decades it is impossible not to repay it by wishing Gary Ablett all the best for his future.
In his press conference he said that deep in the bottom of his heart there will always be a special place for the Geelong Football Club. In the bottom of ours there will always be a special place for Gary Ablett.
But having fond memories of Gary Ablett is one thing, having a dog named after a Gold Coast player is another matter altogether.
My daughter, Bella, is now six. A keener follower of footy you will not find. As the original author of Ablett’s name she has felt the dilemma acutely.
Yet unbeknown to me she has been working on a contingency for some time now. And that contingency swung into immediate action yesterday afternoon. As I rang my wife to cry on her shoulder, I once again despaired at what to do with our poodles.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“Bella has been outside playing with them and I can tell you that ‘Joel’ and ‘Corey’ are just fine.”
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