by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
The Gold Coast Suns has pulled off the biggest recruiting coup yet with the signing of Geelong star Gary Ablett Jr. It is believed that the Suns, who knew Ablett would be out of contract at the end of this season, have been chasing him since last December. Rumors were flying for most of the season as to whether or not Ablett would stay with the Cats or head north, especially when he put off contract talks with the Cats. Geelong was keen to keep him, so much so that there were offers from outside sources to help the Cats meet or better what the Gold Coast was supposedly offering.
Ablett said the decision was a difficult one. He stated that the money was not the main reason he decided to switch, rather it was the challenge of a new team and the fact that he was looking forward to working with the younger players the club has recruited. Ablett believes the Suns have the potential for success and there is a chance he could be appointed as the team's first captain. Although there have been no extensive talks about the captaincy, Ablett said it would be fantastic to be named the club's inaugural skipper.
In their media release, Gold Coast CEO Travis Auld described the signing of Ablett as "the best endorsement" for the club. Auld acknowledged Ablett as possibly the League's best player, describing him as the biggest "marquee" player in the competition. Coach Guy McKenna noted Ablett's competitiveness, work rate and team ethos and said his professionalism would be invaluable.
Should his younger brother Nathan prove himself, the two could be reunited in the same team. Nathan, who has been playing in the VFL this year but has struggled with injuries and form, will begin training with the Suns in October. He was drafted to the Cats under the father-son rule in 2007 and played in the Cats' premiership team that year, but walked out on the club after just one season. Even more shy than Gary was when he came to the Cats, Nathan had difficulty coping with all the media attention. Nathan has until November 23 to prove himself. That is the AFL deadline for players to register for the draft. Ablett will be vying for a rookie spot on the Suns' list. McKenna believes that the recruitment of Gary will help Nathan's prospects.
Gary joined the Cats in 2001 under the father-son rule. He played 192 games for Geelong and kicked 262 goals, becoming a dominant player in the midfield and across the half forward line. He played in the 2007 and 2009 Premierships and won the 2009 Brownlow Medal. Ablett has also been named All-Australian three times and has been named the AFLPA's MVP three times.
The AFL has advised Geelong that they will be entitled to two Round One compensation draft selections, one at the end of the first round of the draft and the other midway through the first round. The club can activate the selections anytime between 2010 and 2014. They will also be allowed to trade those selections. Should they do so, the receiving club(s) will also be entitled to use the selection(s) now or any time through 2014.
Source: afl.com.au; Travis Auld, GCS Release; Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release
Article last changed on Saturday, October 02, 2010 - 5:48 AM EDT