‘Gawn’s third term best in decades’ and ‘Quarter for the ages’ were some of the headlines on sport newspapers, all highlighting how good the Demons’ Max Gawn and Christian Petracca are at the moment.
But imagine if they said the opposite. ‘Selwood racks up 36 disposals’ or ‘Dangerfield leaves red and blue blood on Optus’.
That easily could have happened if it weren’t for one man dislocating his shoulder in a grand final. Yes, Gary Ablett is that man.
If we look at the Demons’ list, it really hasn’t changed all that much. Guns like Petracca, Clayton Oliver, Gawn, Charlie Spargo, and James Harmes were all in the 2020 squad.
And in 2020, the Geelong Cats were the team to beat, waltzing right through to the grand final, where they were eventually put to the sword by Richmond.
But nonetheless, Geelong’s 2020 season was pretty good. So what went wrong in 2021?
Well, it started off like a dream come true for Cats fans, with Shaun Higgins, Isaac Smith, and Jeremy Cameron all arriving in the pre-season. But there was one crucial piece of the puzzle that was missing.
Gary Ablett Jr. The son of ‘God’. He wowed us with his incredible ball skills from a young age. The umpires must have thought so too, giving him the Charlie when he was still a young player.
He got the Cats a premiership in 2011, then headed off north, to help a Gold Coast Suns outfit that paid him a small fortune every year. And help them he did.
He very nearly got them into the top eight, although a shoulder injury ruled him out for the rest of 2014. But what does that tell you about him?
Teams don’t win many matches without their best player. And Gold Coast have just given us the best example possible.
He went on to play for the Cats again, in a move that was criticised heavily by many. He got them to a finals series in 2019, bowing out early in straight sets.
But he wasn’t done yet. In his last season, he got them to a grand final. And even though they couldn’t bring it home under the Brisbane lights, they were a very formidable side that year.
This year however, they couldn’t get into the grand final, even though they picked up three of the best in the trade. They were able to knock off the top sides last year because they had a little bit more experience that year. And a little bit more explosiveness in front of goal. And a little bit more class coming out of the centre.
They had Gary Ablett.
He possessed all of those things, and Geelong really needed him to play this year, even though he was really getting on.
Geelong weren’t the best team this year because they didn’t have Gary Ablett. He was needed to just get them over the line when they had their backs against the wall.
If he was still there, and they had all those amazing players coming over from GWS, North Melbourne, and Hawthorn respectively, and since the Richmond dynasty is now over (finally), then they would be the unbackable flag favourites.