Gary Ablett Jr. is quietly putting together his most complete season yet in his highly decorated career.
Although, can we really say quite? Ablett is always on the media’s lips. Whether he is criticised for his 53 possession game, his leadership or his decision to leave a club in the midst of a dynasty, he has nearly become the number one most talked about player in the AFL. Yet, of late, it seems to be for all the wrong reasons. Plenty of noise is being made by the media but oh gosh, isn’t misled.
Ablett has surpassed every player in the league and has crept by his father. Lance Franklin can dominate any opponent when his marking game and goal kicking is up and running, and Chris Judd used to dominate in his West Coast days but Ablett does it week in week out for a very poor side.
Last week against North Melbourne, he was simply brilliant. He amassed over 40 touches and finished with four classy roving goals. Late in the game, he was kicking out of fullback, hustling over to the next stoppage on the wing, and then willing the ball forward. If only the currently inept Gold Cost Suns had more pieces to complement Ablett’s champion efforts.
So why is this year his most complete performance? His years at Geelong, especially during their premiership runs, was surrounded by hard-nosed leaders in the likes of Tom Harley and Cameron Ling. So when leadership was concerned, Ablett only had to worry about his own personal performance. Furthermore, when teams targeted Ablett on the field, his teammates blocked for him and often the tagger felt the bruises more by the day’s end.
Today, the help comes from lighter bodies and from few seasoned campaigners. The biggest brute the Suns have is Campbell Brown but he is struggling to even get through a game.
In 12 matches this year, his had his way in 11 of them. He has taken a more proactive hands on role when communicating with his younger teammates. Some corners of the football world criticised Ablett publicly grabbing his ruckman by the jumper earlier in the season. Strong leaders know how their troops react to different situations. If a “in your face” approach is required to fire up a teammate, then Ablett’s actions should be applauded.
In a football culture that is still new to the idea of free agency and still lays more emphasis on old fashioned values like loyalty, Ablett’s move up north shocked and, in my opinion, angered many media and football personalities. Similar to why the media love to jump on Ross Lyon, the football public have found Ablett’s decision distasteful and against a loved football value of “club loyalty.” This negative attitude is backward and sooner or later journalists must accept that the football landscape has changed. Possibly for the better.
Hence, some are reluctant to acknowledge Ablett’s greatness. For the ones who stick to this anti-Ablett track they might just miss one of the finest football careers in the modern era.