Cats, Suns, and the second coming of the Son of God

Josh Elliott Editor

By Josh Elliott, Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    Football nicknames are sometimes a bit inscrutable, but when a player is nicknamed ‘God’, well, that’s rather straightforward.

    That was the case for Gary Ablett senior, a player who alongside Leigh Matthews and Wayne Carey is consistently rated as amongst the best seen in living memory.

    When that player has a son who becomes arguably as good or better than his old man ever was, that only adds to the legend.

    I’m talking about Gary Ablett junior of course (with apologies to Nathan Ablett) – GAJ, Gazza, or if you prefer, the Son of God.

    Ablett the elder didn’t take Geelong to the promised land, but junior did – and then did it again two years later.

    Then he was led into the wilderness (Queensland) and tempted for forty days and nights (the 2010 AFL season) by the devil (expansion).

    That’s where the metaphor falls down a bit because rather than turning over the tables of the money lenders in the temple, this Son of God signed a five-year deal with the Gold Coast Suns, reportedly worth more than $9 million. The results have been mixed.

    There’s been another four All-Australian jumpers, three best-and-fairests, two leading goalkicker awards, and of course the 2013 Brownlow Medal.

    However, there have also been questions over his leadership and character, 31 games missed through injury in the last three years, zero finals, and a trade request put to the Suns to come home to Geelong at the end of last year.

    That’s where the biblical metaphor picks up again – Christianity has been waiting rather a long time for the second coming of its Son of God, but Geelong fans might not have to wait much longer.

    Gary Ablett Junior Gold Coast Suns AFL 2016

    It wasn’t until after last year’s trade and free agency period that the story broke that Gary Ablett had asked the Suns for a trade home to Geelong.

    “At the end of the season, and well before the exchange period, Gary asked a question relating to the possibility of him returning to Geelong. The club’s response was an emphatic no. An answer Gary both accepted and understood,” said Gold Coast’s football manager Marcus Ashcroft.

    The way the Suns put it you’d say it was over and done with, no big deal really. It will be a surprise to the vast majority of football fans, myself included, if that really does prove to be the case.

    Ablett is currently contracted until the end of 2018 and you can understand why the Suns would refuse to let him go last year – with Jaeger O’Meara and Dion Prestia departing the club, it would have made a bad situation all the more dire.

    Could things be different at the end of 2017? Perhaps with new captains running the show and more young talent being blooded, the Suns might be willing to begrudgingly move on from the Ablett era – especially if he has another injury-stricken season.

    Geelong’s behaviour over the off-season perhaps suggests they have an interest in bringing Ablett back to the club.

    They were deep into negotiations to secure Brett Deledio and then backed out very suddenly – possibly in order to make sure there would be room left in the salary cap to target Ablett this year.

    That said, they would be hard pressed to satisfy Gold Coast in a trade, having already given up their 2017 first round pick as part of the deal to get Zach Tuohy, so that is a major question mark for them.

    Whatever the price is though, it’d be worth it to Geelong. Ablett, Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield may be one man short of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but would inspire no less terror.

    And of course, it’d just be a great win for footy traditionalists – regardless of how you feel about expansion, I wager we’d all agree that there’s little more pure and right in the game than an Ablett wearing white and navy blue hoops.

    Geelong Cats premiership era

    What does it mean for the Suns and Cats in 2017? For the Cats, it may mean that 2017 is a year of waiting, rather than a year of winning.

    Personally, I’ve got my doubts about them as a side at the moment. They have two elite players at the middle, and then another at either end of the ground, which is nothing to sneeze at, but in a very competitive year it may not be enough to have a real impact.

    Much like 2015 however, when they failed to make finals, they’ve got a big-name recruit on the horizon and fans of the felines may be content simply to lick their lips with anticipation.

    For Gold Coast, it’s a potential headache – it’s probably almost a guaranteed headache. Whether Ablett plays well or poorly or not at all, Rodney Eade can expect regular questions at his pressers.

    The Suns are in an odd position. They’re clearly in something of a “rebuild” – as much as a club that has never played finals can be said to be – yet Suns chairman Tony Cochrane says they can play a grand final in the next two or three years. There’s an identity crisis to be sure.

    Making things all the more interesting is that the senior coaches of both clubs, Chris Scott and Rodney Eade, are both out of contract at the end of 2017. Noise has been made about re-signing Scott – Eade, not so much.

    My predictions? Neither side will be a major player in the 2017 campaign, but both will cause plenty of talk at the end of the year. A change of coach for at least one seems a reasonably likely possibility, but most importantly, the Son of God will come again.

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • Roar Guru

      March 19th 2017 @ 9:07am
      mds1970 said | March 19th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Great player as Gary Ablett has been, and he’s one of the best ever, he’ll be 33 at the end of this year and not the player he once was. Particularly if he has another injury-interrupted season, which would be his 4th in a row, would Geelong really be interested? He’d certainly have to take a pay cut to go back to Geelong.

    • March 19th 2017 @ 9:18am
      George said | March 19th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      Son of God homecoming is not solution to Cats issues. Sentimental and marketing value? Yes. I predict Ablett will have very good season. This time Gary had latarjet surgery on his shoulder which has 5x less probability of dislocation occur again compared to traditional reconstruction. To my surprise Fyfe had the same procedure in 2012. Watching Gary’s first JTL game, he seems to have more confidence in his shoulder already than the whole last year. He could not resist to get into middle of contest. AFL screwed setting up Suns. But a lot of good things happened in the last 2 years on and off field. I am confident they will be much better this year. They recruited really well in last 2-3 years. For the first time Suns got very good depth especially in midfield and with reasonable injuries run they could sneak into play off. But until they do most people in Melbourne will consider them a joke. Will Gary leave at the end of the year, supposedly because his wife is homesick? Probably, but he may end up in a worse team by that time.

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2017 @ 9:40am
        Gordon P Smith said | March 19th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Couldn’t have said it better, George.

    • March 19th 2017 @ 10:24am
      Onside said | March 19th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      soon there’ll most likely be a ‘Daughter of God’

    • March 19th 2017 @ 12:07pm
      me too said | March 19th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

      Cats fans will be more than happy to see Gaz relegated from the son of god, to merely the prodigal son. Will he be worth a future first rounder? I’d think so if it means a genuine tilt at the flag in 2018.

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2017 @ 12:39pm
        Cat said | March 19th 2017 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

        Absolutely not, which is why the whole ‘Cats have nothing to trade with’ is such a pointless and misleading statement.

        The Sam Mitchell trade is the closest indicator of what would be fair. However, Mitchell was on a far lower salary and hasn’t been injured for 2 years, making Ablett’s value lower than Mitchell’s.

        • March 19th 2017 @ 3:39pm
          George said | March 19th 2017 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

          I would say a bit different situation with Sam. Hawks basically started rebuild, 2017 would be probably Mitchell’s last year anway so they were happy to move him on. On the other hand, Suns see benefits for Gary to stay around young players until his contract expires. I believe his contract is heavily up fronted so I doubt they would let him go after paying him most of it in first 2 years. Unless they appreciate what he has done for club. For me Gary was disappointing when as a captain asked for trade after Prestia and O’Meara left. He should never be a captain.

          • Roar Guru

            March 19th 2017 @ 5:08pm
            Cat said | March 19th 2017 @ 5:08pm | ! Report

            I would say a bit different situation with Sam. Hawks basically started rebuild

            Suns are in first year of rebuild too, hence why they went so hard in this years draft.

            would be probably Mitchell’s last year anway

            2018 is liable to be Ablett’s final year too, definitely the final year of his current contract.

            I believe his contract is heavily up fronted so I doubt they would let him go after paying him most of it in first 2 years.

            Wouldn’t that make it more likely not less, that the Suns would want to part ways? Paying a 34 year old coming off several injured years ~$1.24m doesn’t make sense.

            Player A:
            On ~$400k
            34 years old
            Has hardly missed any time
            Likely to play 1 more year

            Player B:
            On ~$1.2m
            34 years old
            Has missed most of last 2 years
            Likely to play 1 more year

            Player A was traded for (essentially) pick 88. Why would player B be worth a first round pick?

            • March 19th 2017 @ 5:29pm
              George said | March 19th 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

              I did not say Ablett is worth first round pick. I would not give up second round pick for Gary either. Either Suns let him go for nothing or similar pick like Sam or Gary stays or her retires into his Son of God world.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 1:56am
          me too said | March 20th 2017 @ 1:56am | ! Report

          Win the premiership – lose an 18th pick? Bargain – go for it Cats! 😉

        • Roar Guru

          March 20th 2017 @ 9:51am
          Paul D said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Bang on Cat. Everyone saying Geelong have got nothing to trade is overlooking the fact the Suns stand to gain a whole lot by getting him off their books in terms of salary.

          Gaz wants out, the Suns want the cash, the Cats want him home. Everyone wins.

      • March 19th 2017 @ 1:08pm
        George said | March 19th 2017 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

        Here pops up the sentimental part of Son of God. Deal! Suns would love first rounder 🙂 They would probably even pay part of his salary. In all seriousness, that would be stupid deal by Cats. Ablett will definitely not be the last missing peace of Cats flag tilt in 2018.

    • March 19th 2017 @ 12:50pm
      Bobby said | March 19th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

      Please come home Gaz

    • March 19th 2017 @ 5:58pm
      dave said | March 19th 2017 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

      I,d like to see Ablett finish his career at the Cats with another flag(assuming my team has failed).
      It would be great moment but there is a few flaws.
      In 2018 you would assume Ablett’s role would be a mercurial small forward aged 34.A Geelong Favourite.
      Last year the Cats couldn’t find room for a Geelong favorite son that plays as a mercurial small forward so Stevie J went and played good footy for GWS.
      I personally think Stevie’s form in 2016 will turn out to be better than Abletts in 2018,Although I could be very wrong.Yet the Cats let Stevie go so I,m not so sure This Ablett thing will happen.

      • Roar Guru

        March 19th 2017 @ 7:08pm
        Cat said | March 19th 2017 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

        For all the good Stevie J does he is also a liability. One could point to him getting suspended for something stupid (yet again) was the difference in GWS making the GF or not. Will it happen again this season? Chances are good. Stevie J moving on was a classic win-win for he and the team.

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