Gary Ablett Jr has wanted to return home to Geelong for the last two years citing family reasons. The tragic passing of his sister, Natasha, last week highlighted once again his desire and his intention to retire should a trade not have been done. The two clubs have had a good 12 months to work on the finer details of this trade but that didn’t stop them dragging it out until deadline day.
Gold Coast wanted a pick, a player and some salary cap relief. Geelong didn’t want to sell the farm to trade in a 33-year-old. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, not one Cat was willing to be a part of a trade and play for the Suns in 2018. Regardless the deal is done – a complicated pick swap, a slide down the order this year but essentially a second-round selection in 2018 – and Ablett is once again a Cat.
He played 110 games for the Suns, was the clubs inaugural captain and has won their best and fairest award four times. To date, Ablett has played 192 games for Geelong with that number set to tick over 200 games in 2018. Widely regarded as one of the best players ever to grace the game, Ablett has won the Brownlow Medal twice, once with each club.
Everybody knows what Ablett is capable of on the football field, the question is whether or not his body will hold up. In a team boasting Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield who have both attracted a tag throughout 2017, Ablett will be under less pressure when he takes the field whether he’s lining up in the midfield or the forward line. I expect he’ll spend time in both positions next year, he and Dangerfield are both very potent when sent forward and Geelong certainly needs another avenue to goal, expect them to rotate with each other a bit. He and Dangerfield can rack up 30 disposals and 2 goals no matter how much time they spend forward so I wouldn’t expect a downturn in either of their scoring capacity.
A greater responsibility will fall on the shoulder of David Swallow, Jarryd Lyons and Aaron Hall but there are some serious opportunities for their younger players to get their hands on the ball much much more. Expect to see Touk Miller take another step up while guys like Brayden Fiorini, Jack Bowes, Will Brodie and the newly traded Harrison Wigg should get more opportunities at senior level.
Ablett will start the 2018 SuperCoach season priced at the 114 average he finished the season at and while I wouldn’t bet the house on him increasing his average, it’s certainly possible and he’s unlikely to drop off should Geelong manage his training loads appropriately. There’ll be safer and better value picks in the midfield next year but he’s not a bust by any means.