Who would you prefer in your team: Ablett Senior or Junior?

Date: April 4, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

The combined careers of Gary Ablett Senior and Junior reads like no other father-son combination in the history of Australian Football.

Between them they have won every major accolade there is at the highest level of the sport.

But, what if you had to choose between them and select the one you would have most preferred at your club?

Just who would have been the most beneficial to have on the list?

In assessing their respective merits let’s do so by looking at Gary Junior as his career has unfolded to date and not speculate beyond his current achievements.

Both father and son are totally different players – senior a powerfully built forward and prolific goalkicker, junior a prolific possession-winning on-baller

At present the younger has played 256 games (192 with Geelong, 64 with Gold Coast) while the elder played 248 (six at Hawthorn and 242 with the Cats).

Whilst Gary Senior predominantly played his career as a key forward he is surprisingly just three centimetres taller than his son – 185cm versus 182cm.

Father though was clearly the heavier at 97kg compared with 85kg.

He used that extra mass to great effect, often barging through packs and landing bone-crunching bumps.

His physicality at the contest was an ever-present facet of his play and at times it brought him the wrath of the tribunal – he was reported 14 times during his career, found guilty on ten of those occasions and outed for a total of 20 weeks.

Ablett Jnr has made an art form of racking up disposals as his father did goals.

During his career he has exceeded 40 possessions in a match 18 times with a game-high of 53 and an average of 24.7 per game over his career.

So let’s look at the pair’s achievements:

Gary Senior

  • 8-time All-Australian (captain 1995)
  • Member of AFL Team of the Century
  • Member of Geelong Team of the Century
  • Member of Victorian Team of the Century
  • Member of AFL Hall of Fame
  • Voted by past and present players in 2006 as Geelong’s Greatest Ever Player
  • Geelong co-captain 1995-96
  • Best finish in Brownlow medal voting equal 4th in 1985
  • 89th all-time in Brownlow medal votes with 100 and 22 best-on-ground performances
  • Geelong B & F 1984 & runner-up four times
  • Member of runners-up teams in 1989, 1992, 1994 & 1995
  • 1030 career goals (5th all-time) at an average of 4.1 per game
  • Kicked seven or more goals 45 times with a best of 14 on three occasions
  • 3-time Coleman medallist – 1993 (124), 1994 (129) & 1995 (122)
  • 9-time leading goalkicker at Geelong
  • 64 goals in 16 finals at an average of 4.0 per game
  • Record 27 goals in 1989 finals series with hauls of 3, 7, 8 & 9
  • AFL Players’ Association MVP 1993
  • Norm Smith medallist 1989
  • Kicked a record nine goals in 1989 grand final
  • AFL Mark of the Year 1985 & 1994
  • AFL Mark of the Century

Gary Junior

  • 7-time All-Australian (captain 2011) and only player to be selected seven years in a row
  • Dual Brownlow medallist in 2009 & 2013, runner-up in 2010 & third in 2008
  • 5th most Brownlow medal votes of all-time (187) with 41 best-on-ground performances
  • Geelong B & F in 2007 & 2008 and twice runner-up
  • Gold Coast B & F 2011, 2012 & 2013
  • Gold Coast captain 2011-2014
  • Geelong’s leading goalkicker in 2006
  • Dual premiership player 2009 & 2011
  • AFL Players’ Association MVP five times (no other player has won it more than twice since its inception in 1982)
  • AFL Coaches’ Association MVP 2007, 2008 & 2009 and the only player to have won it more than once (inaugurated in 2003)

It is worth noting that Ablett Jnr is ineligible at present for the AFL Hall of Fame as a current player and he had not begun playing at the time his father was selected in the AFL and Victorian Teams of the Century.

Had it not been for issues off the field, Ablett Snr would surely have already been elevated to legend status in the Hall of Fame, such was the following and respect he garnered as a result of his on-field exploits.

Interestingly, despite his undoubted brilliance, Gary Snr never really got close to winning a Brownlow medal and he garnered only 100 votes in his 248-game career.

He was also seen only once by his peers – AFLPA MVP award – as the best player in the competition while his son has won it an unprecedented four times.

For consistency throughout a career, the junior Ablett would perhaps be the winner but for sheer match-winning ability alone his father perhaps has him covered.

When Gary Snr was chosen – on the interchange bench – in the AFL Team of the Century in 1996 he was, along with Stephen Silvagni, the only one still playing.

It begs the question that if a Team of the Past 118-Years was selected tomorrow would Gary Jnr be in it?

If he was to be chosen he would have to do so ahead of incumbents Leigh Matthews, Dick Reynolds, Ian Stewart, Haydn Bunton Jnr and Bobby Skilton.

It would be interesting to see how the selection panel would rate him in that company.

As mentioned earlier, he still has a lot of football left in him, and with it the prospect of even more accolades.

But judging the father-son combination on what they have both achieved to date, if it was me, I would choose the father as the one I would wish to have in my team for I believe he had that rare ability to literally turn a match single-handedly.

But, down the track, my opinion could change.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 3 April 2014