It comes as no surprise that the 2020 Grand Final was Gary Ablett's last game. There was very little fanfare and no major announcement, most likely due to the fact that almost everyone knew it was to be his last. There is little that can be said about the "Little Master" that has not already been said or written. At the end of the game, all the Richmond players lined up with the Cats to form a guard of honor for Ablett. However, there was much more to it than that.
Richmond players showed their respect for Ablett during and after the game. Ablett had to leave the ground early in the first term after injuring his troublesome shoulder. Despite the pain, he saw out the game. When he returned to the field, it would have been very easy for Tiger players to target him and his shoulder. But they didn't. After the game and the cup presentation, Tiger players, led by captain Trent Cotchin, approached Geelong captain Joel Selwood and offered their support for whatever plans the Cats had to honor Ablett. When the Tigers lined up with the Cats - along with coaching staff and other staff members from both sides - to form the guard of honor, the Tigers' premiership medals were nowhere in sight. In an effort not to rub in their victory, they removed them before lining up. The Gabba also stopped playing their song. In an interview later,
Jack Riewoldt said a Dustin Martin gesture in 2017 was the inspiration, “I spoke to Danger (Patrick Dangerfield) after the game and just said, "look, we’d really like to do this ... the medal idea came from when Dustin did it in 2017. He didn’t wear his Norm Smith around when all of us had our premiership medals on … he didn’t want to be the only one out with two medals. This isn’t a moment for us - we paused our celebrations - this was actually about respecting and honoring a champion of the game. I’d hate for Gary to look back on those images and see all of us standing there with the spoils of victory, and take the shine away from what has arguably been the greatest career in AFL history. A small gesture but we’ve had some correspondence with Geelong and they really appreciate it. As Dustin said in his speech, he’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game and he deserves the respect. We were happy to give that to him and to send him the love.”
Geelong captain Joel Selwood and Norm Smith medalist Dustin Martin paid tribute to Ablett with their speeches after the game. Selwood said it was difficult to say goodbye, “There’s a little bald bloke over there and we want to say we love you and we thank you for all you’ve done for the game. He's had a hell of a career. I was a Geelong supporter growing up so I wasn’t only his teammate, I was also a big fan ... He’s given this game more than anyone I reckon over a 20-year period. Credit to Richmond tonight to show that respect. We’re going to miss him I reckon because there might not be another one like him.”
Star forward Patrick Dangerfield said the players were never in any doubt that Ablett would fight through pain to finish the grand final. But he said everyone was emotional to know they had played their last game with one of the AFL’s greats, “It’s emotional for us all to see the back of his playing days. In my time in the game I haven’t seen someone dominate for a genuine decade. He’s a pleasure to play with, awful to play against and I count myself lucky as we all do to that we’ve been able to experience him.”
Ablett, 36, was hugged by his Geelong teammates as he broke down in tears. Despite his disappointment, he sought out Cotchin to congratulate him. As he walked off the ground to join his wife and infant son, he received a standing ovation.
Ed. note: Ablett is a very quiet person. When he first got drafted, he was also very shy. He once appeared on The Footy Show and it was mentioned that the only way he appeared was with the promise from the show's staff of tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert.
GARY ABLETT, JR
Geelong: 2002 - 2010, 192 games, 262 goals, 2018 - 2020, 55 games, 59 goals
Gold Coast: 2011 - 2017 110 games, 124 goals
Premierships 2007, 2009
Brownlow Medal 2009, 2013
Gold Coast captain 2011 - 2016
Leigh Matthews Trophy (AFLPA MVP) 2007 - 2009, 2012 - 2013
AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year 2007 - 2009
All-Australian 2007 - 2014 (captain 2011)
Geelong best and fairest 2007, 2009
Gold Coast best and fairest 2011 - 2013, 2017
Geelong leading goalkicker 2006
Gold Coast leading goalkicker 2012 - 2013
Marcus Ashcroft Medal (best on ground in QClash) 2012, 2014
Prior to the 2020 Grand Final, veteran Geelong defender Harry Taylor announced the game would be his last. In a letter to club members, Taylor thanked them for their support dunning his career. In part in the letter he said, “I limped in ... bright eyed and determined back in 2007 and limp off 4,723 days later in 2020 proud that I have given my absolute best ... The one on one contests, the ice baths, the heartbreaking losses and the unbelievable victories ... I have tried to prepare as well as possible for every battle. You have been there with me through it all ... We both know I didn’t move like the most graceful looking footballer, nor did I subscribe to the AFL player stereotype. I am unique but I have always just done what I think works best to help my teammates and the Geelong Football Club. I know myself and live by a vison. I strive to be a man of my word. Integrity and authenticity guide my path forward. I would have loved to have helped our great club win more games and more premierships but I leave having fully committed to the process and the values of our organization. I hope you have enjoyed laughing, yelling, crying ... with me and at me over the past 13 years. It’s been one hell of a ride. Go Cats.”
Taylor leaves, 34, is a dual premiership player (2009 and 2011). He was named All-Australian twice and is equal ninth for most games (280) with Geelong. He played the fourth most finals (31) in league history and is a life member of both the AFL and Geelong , having helped the Cats to flags in 2009 and 2011. He was twice named to the All Australian team and finishes in equal ninth place for most games played with Geelong. Taylor has played the fourth most finals in league history (31) and is a life member both the AFL and the Geelong Football Club. He was also heavily involved in all areas of the club’s activities. He was named as community champion in 2012 and a member of the club’s honoring the past committee. Taylor twice won the Tom Harley award as best clubman – in 2016 and 2020.
Geelong’s general manager Lloyd paid tribute to Taylor, “Harry’s record speaks for itself and he has been an incredible player for the club over a long period of time. Harry continued to play exceptional football until his final game. He has demonstrated an insatiable appetite to continue to learn and has always been highly invested in the betterment of the team, club and community. Harry has always been hugely respected by his teammates and everyone associated with the Geelong Football Club ... He will be missed around the club ... ".
Sources: perthnow.com.au, thewest.com.au, Kevin Diggerson, Geelong Media Release, AFL Record Season Guide
Article last changed on Wednesday, January 06, 2021 - 8:21 PM EST