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World's best father-son

Sport's greatest father-son combination?

Sport's greatest father-son combination? Photo: Michael Willson

It seems every time Gary Ablett steps on to an AFL ground these days he raises the bar just a little higher. And Saturday night's effort at Metricon Stadium ranks as one of the best handful of performances of the champion's 233-game career.

Not just for the 34 disposals, four goals and nine clearances, but for the way that, come crunch time, he again resolved to pick his side up and drag it over the line. Thirteen of those possessions, four stoppage wins and three of those goals came when it mattered most.

So the debates begin again. Is Ablett clearly the best player in the AFL? Is he a better footballer than his father, Gary snr, who is still viewed widely as the greatest the game has seen?

I've got a new one to throw into the mix too, and while there will be plenty to howl it down on the basis of Australian football's isolation on the sporting stage, I'm ready to argue the case. Are the Abletts the greatest father-son combination in the history of world sport?

Are there any rivals you can name who immediately trump that claim? I've heard a handful of alternative nominations. Baseball's Ken Griffey snr and jnr. Motor racing's Mario and Michael Andretti, or Graham and Damon Hill. In soccer, Cesare and Paolo Maldini, or Johan and Jordi Cruyff.

That's about where the suggestions seem to end. Well, for humans, anyway, though many seem happy to throw in Sir Tristram and Zabeel. But can any of those men or nags boast the same sort of influence over their sport the Abletts have had? Will any of those family couplings have both the elder and younger half spoken about as among the best handful of exponents of a sport in its history?

Ablett snr's statistical legacy is imposing enough. A spot in the AFL's Team of the Century. Three Coleman Medals. Eight All-Australian selections. A total of 1030 career goals, the fifth highest in history, despite having spent only four seasons as a full-time spearhead. A record nine goals in a grand final. Three bags of 14, and 45 hauls of seven or more.

The clincher for me of Ablett snr's standing as the greatest of all time was his capacity to perform feats of which arguably no other player has been physically capable, the snaps over the shoulder from beyond 50 metres on either foot.

Ablett snr might have been the last player who it can be said dragged thousands through the turnstiles only to see him play.

Yet Gary jnr, while not as explosive, and certainly not as physically intimidating, has his dad covered for consistency. Saturday night was incredibly the 74th time he had recorded 30-plus possessions in his past 131 games.

At 28, with potentially another five seasons left in him, the younger Ablett already has a Brownlow Medal, four best and fairests, six All-Australian gongs and four recognitions as best player in the competition from his peers.

What even those numbers don't state adequately, though, is the extent to which the Gold Coast skipper not only marshals those around him, but lifts them with him, like Ablett did in Saturday night's final quarter. It's pretty hard to find an extra gear when you're routinely in overdrive, but he did it yet again against St Kilda, and got his side the win.

Who else in the modern era has been capable of doing it? A decade ago it was James Hird, Nathan Buckley, Michael Voss, perhaps recently Jonathan Brown and Chris Judd. Now Ablett stands alone.

As a father-son combination, they have got other AFL greats such as Serg and Stephen Silvagni, Ken and Dustin Fletcher, even Tim and Jobe Watson covered. Call me parochial, but I reckon the Abletts might have it over the rest of the globe as well.


  • Greatest ever father and son Valentino and Sandro Mazzola

    Both considered in the top 3 soccer players in the world at their time.
    Valentino - was an Italian footballer and captain of the celebrated Grande Torino side, killed in the Superga air disaster. He is considered one of the best football players of all time and perhaps the first modern all-around footballer, as he was an attacking midfielder who could score, tackle, defend and lead his teammates to victory with his charismatic presence

    Sandro played 70 times for Italy, scoring 22 goals. His biggest achievement came in 1968 when Italy won the 1968 European Championship. Two years later, Italy arrived at the World Cup in Mexico as favorite and made the final.

    At Club Mazzola scored twice to beat Real Madrid in the 1964 European Cup Final to emulate A.C. Milan's feat of the previous season. They would defend their title again the following season by beating S.L. Benfica in the Final. In the 1966-67 season, they made it to their third Final, but lost to Celtic F.C. with Mazzola scoring one goal.

    Date and time
    April 01, 2013, 1:44AM
    • @claude, your own words undo your argument. They may have been in the top "at their time" but Ablett snr is considered the best of all time, and people still ask if Ablett jnr is even better!

      This suggests that Ablett snr and jnr ar the two best players ever of this sport.

      Pele, Bradman, Ruth, Jordan, Lindrum, Woods, Senna, Navratilova, Federer etc. When you consider who other sports' greatest players of all time might be, none have immediate heirs breathing down their neck at #2.

      No other sport that I know of can make the claim it's possible best two players of all time are father and son.

      Date and time
      April 01, 2013, 10:34AM
    • Carey was a lot better than ablett sr. No doubt though the abletts wiin the family prize though

      Date and time
      April 01, 2013, 7:01PM
    • Notwithstanding that this is the AFL a sport that is barely pops up outside Melbourne in Australia - these two are serious contenders for the title 'greats'. Gary, I would argue is the only superstar in the current comp. I am pretty neutral on most things in footy (as I am sure you have already deduced) but would pay simply to watch Gary play. Such a shame that he is largely hidden away from the footy mad public of Victoria playing in a third tier team . With no international competition to measure against - it seems absurd to so isolate the games biggest draw card. More bizarre for a sport that markets itself so skillfully.

      Date and time
      April 01, 2013, 7:21PM
  • Have to agree with you Rohan, the Abletts have everybody covered. Saturday night's performance was out of this world from Junior. And for the record, horses don't count, because they're not human, and horse racing isn't a sport, made even less so by the level of corruption in it. Little Gaz was just superb. I wonder if Geelong are praying that little Gary has a son to keep the legacy going?

    Sir Stewart Wallace
    Date and time
    April 01, 2013, 2:05AM
    • Also would like to throw into the mix of AFL stars, the father/son combo of Tim and Jobe Watson.
      However, there must have been something in the water in G/town, particularly in the Ablett household. Senior and Junior are something else.

      Date and time
      April 01, 2013, 2:13PM
  • Ablett Sr was the greatest athlete to play the game. Ablett Jr is the greatest player of the 21st Century. Sorted.

    The Commodore
    Date and time
    April 01, 2013, 4:25AM
    • Yes, I'll call you parochial, but you may well be right. I'd throw the Campbells (Malcolm and Donald) into the mix if you're prepared to count going very fast as a sport. They certainly dominated land and water speed racing for the short durations of both their lives. And they died for their sport - what more can you ask.

      Date and time
      April 01, 2013, 8:15AM
      • Rohan ,Rohan,Rohan ,you have missed the glaring obvious,you have the brilliant golfer,who on his first ever game,at age 72 ,banged in no less than 6 hole in ones. Smashed the course record with a score of 49 ,for 18 hole par 72 course. His son then has his first game only two weeks back at age 39 ,and proves the sporting ability runs in the family he proceeded to also have 6 holes in one,and just misses dads record by shooting a 50 ,this is surely the greatest achieve not or at her and son in any sport,anywhere.
        Before you question it's validity it's noted that this was seen by none other than 12 onlookers and reporters ,unfortunately it was news paper reporters and no vision exists,,,,so the best ever father son combo goes to............drum roll please.......... Dad, Kim Jong-il and his little nipper ,Kim Jong-not il , and it is reported in the North Korean post. Thank you,ill expect my bertocchi ham in the mail.

        Sth Morang
        Date and time
        April 01, 2013, 8:41AM
        • You forgot the most important part of that record setting feat . He did all that without ever resorting to the use of a club . Now beat that you ugly Americans.

          Mount Gamber SA
          Date and time
          April 01, 2013, 10:47AM

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