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There's plenty of Gaz still in the tank

Date

Joel Selwood

The Gold Coast Sun's Gary Ablett in action.

The Gold Coast Sun's Gary Ablett in action. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

HERE'S something that might surprise people about Gary Ablett: in some of the competitive areas that are part of everyday life at a football club, he was no star.

When Gary was at Geelong he was never the strongest runner - he always finished mid-range when it came to time trials. And he was never the strongest in the gym - again only mid-range in the strength testing.

As a fan and constant student of the game (even if I don't play any of the fantasy games that take over workplaces or children's homework time), I love to watch the best teams. I look forward to watching their up-and-coming stars and to keeping a close eye on the premier players. What intrigues me most is how the top players continually find a way to keep up their elite performance standards and look for ways to constantly better themselves.

It's only early in the year but one player has stood out to me above everyone else - my good mate Gaz. His first three games this season have been absolutely incredible: 42, 40 and 45 possessions respectively and six goals.

It's made me think he is actually getting better as a player, when I thought it was just not possible.

He turns 28 this year and he has done just about everything on the football field that's possible. When is it going to stop? And why is he so good?

I put it down to two trademark Gary Ablett values. It is no fluke. Yes, he has the genes that we all dream of, but he was always super-professional in what he did. If it took extra recovery or stretching sessions to get his battered body ready for games from week to week, that's what he'd do.

This year his body looks trimmer and lighter, and this wouldn't be from training only: he would be watching everything he eats so he could better himself.

Gaz's competitiveness is what I believe makes him the player he is. He doesn't like losing anything, be it a wrestle at training or a pre-match game of soccer where you have to keep the ball up for as long as you can.

He just has special talents and incredible competitiveness. Even if it was juggling, he pushed himself to be one of the best, was constantly trying to improve himself.

Gaz and Steve Johnson had a strong relationship. They used to bet each other on everything - snapping the ball through a door in the gym, keeping the ball in the air, doing the impossible kick or how many balls they could last in cricket in the gym.

There was always a little dollar on it, or you buy lunch or coffee.

Gaz also had an incredible ability to switch on and off as he needed. He was always organising extra tickets for family and friends: we get four each and even an hour before the game Gaz was going around the change rooms asking blokes if they had any spare tickets and running them to friends outside.

He would rock up to games without even a bag, just his skins and his wallet and car keys in his hand. Everyone else would have a bag but he'd have everything else - jumper, shorts, socks, mouthguard - already in his locker. People would send Gaz memorabilia and all sorts of things, so there was always stuff everywhere in his locker, spilling out onto the floor.

He was so relaxed, joking around right up until the last minute. Then he'd go into the meeting room and flick a switch.

When he announced he was leaving, Gaz sent a text around to everyone. It was the day before the best and fairest, so we were able to talk to him there. We weren't sure what he'd wear but he turned up in his Geelong suit and tie.

Looking back through the year, you were never sure what he would do. You were hopeful he would stay but you'd hear the talk of what the numbers could be, unbelievable figures that our football club could never pay. We were always hopeful, because he worked so hard right up until the last minute on the last day.

People have asked me: how do you think Gary would be feeling about Geelong winning the premiership in 2011? I answer it the same way every time: he would have been barracking hard for us that day but absolutely it would have killed him not being part of it. I can guarantee you it will drive him to get one at the Gold Coast.

20 comments

  • Question for Joel: Forgive me if this seems an intrusive thing to ask, but given the number of head clashes you suffer as a result of your playing style, do you have regular brain function tests? I mean, it's a proven thing that an excessive amount of knocks to the head will reduce your brain function and lead to problems later in life. You no doubt know exactly how long a career you have (and may it be a long one indeed, Captain), but it will most definitely end, and I often wonder if the later years in your life - of which there will be more than twice as many as your playing career - are taken into account?

    People often say: "Nobody goes to their grave wishing they could've stayed in the office longer". Well, in your case, the office is an oval in front of thousands of fans at the prime of your life, so I'm sure you'll have no regrets. But if a debilitating brain condition was present (and we all hope that is never the case, but lets be hypothetical), would you have second thoughts about your past?

    Commenter
    Kayzersoze
    Location
    Melbs
    Date and time
    April 18, 2012, 10:11AM
    • Excellent question.

      I too have the same concerns about AFL players, especially Joels teammate, Jimmy Bartel.

      Would really love to hear from Joel about this issue, this is/should be a valid concern for any current player.

      Commenter
      jmoney
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 7:26PM
    • A fair question to ask, I have great belief in the medical staff that work at my footy club. Never will they ever put a player in a position that they don't want to be in or on the other hand the medical team have more stay then the coach when it comes to if you should be on the ground or not. Leading on from that they give the players the best insight to injuries that occur and future troubles that you may have. I hope you understand that I don't want to get to personal on the matter

      Commenter
      Joel Selwood
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 8:13PM
  • How often has a Brownlow medalist come from one of the bottom 3 sides? Because so far he is looking good!

    Commenter
    Ben
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    April 18, 2012, 10:44AM
    • know that sydney were fairly low down when paul kelly won his, not sure if was bottom 3 or not

      Commenter
      loch
      Location
      brusnwick
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 11:17AM
      • Swans finished 12th of 16 in 1995, under Ronald Dale, as they began a quick ascent that would see them play in the following year's grand final. They beat Collingwood at home in the final round to ensure the Magpies missed the finals.

        Commenter
        Will Brodie
        Date and time
        April 18, 2012, 11:22AM
    • Q - Hi Joel, how much would you squat (back bar) and deadlift (regular), for say 5 reps? How common are squats and deadlifts in AFL clubs?

      Commenter
      Pat Miller
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 1:29PM
      • Pat, depending on what stage of the year depends on what exercise we do. The squat and dead-lift  are a huge part of our preseason and we will maintain these exercises throughout the season at stage. Josh Hunt loves them

        Commenter
        Joel Selwood
        Date and time
        May 10, 2012, 8:19PM
    • Who is the greatest midfielder in the AFL in 2012? Judd.

      Who is the best midfielder in the AFL in 2012? Murphy.

      Commenter
      Cam
      Location
      Melbs
      Date and time
      April 18, 2012, 2:16PM
      • Q - Hi Joel,

        I've always wanted to ask you - where do you buy your t-shirts? I've always really admired both yours and Gary's sense of style. Not enough of it in the AFL if you ask me.

        Commenter
        Tom Betts - Melbourne
        Date and time
        April 18, 2012, 4:20PM

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