A Difficult Conversation

When his daughter, upon learning of Gary Ablett’s departure north, asked “Daddy, do we still barrack for Geelong?”, Gerard Whateley knew he’d reached a pivotal moment.

Read his response.



  1. Mulcaster says

    I am now convinced that Geelong fans are the sporting equivalent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
    You bring your kids up in an enclosed community sharing a delusion.
    Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses you have a strong bond with each other and there is an invisible barrier blocking out others of faith.

    The Abletts are like disfellowshiped JWs, their names cannot be mentioned without a sense of their fall from grace.

  2. John Butler says

    Shh Mulcaster. I take your point, but the numbers are against us.

  3. Mulcaster says

    I don’t know the evidence is mounting….Harms takes his three year old son out tio Princess Park and then “averts his eyes” from the front part of a pneumatic woman!!!
    Gerard Whateley disrespects Snata Claus …JWs don’t believe in Christmas…

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    We really shouldn’t be surprised by all this. I mean Jesus was a Jew who changed teams and urged his fans to follow the ‘Son’. Just history repeating itself through the prism of footy in 2011 AD.

  5. Mulcaster,

    Gazza and his family helpers have about 9 million reasons to believe in Santa.

  6. My boy Jackson is nine and he barracks for Geelong. He isn’t a dyed in the wool fan. This is his third team since he was five but he has stayed with them for several years now, including being at the G last September for that Corio Bay shattering game where the Pies announced, without regard for the great Geelong team of the last four seasons, that their moment was nigh. Also, Jackson’s late grandmother was a Cats supporter.

    But even slightly removed, Whateley story moved me as I recalled Jackson’s stunned, incomprehensible look when he received the news that it was official, Gazza was leaving Geelong. The term existential crisis was coined for this very dilemma, to capture the emptiness, the void that was the connection between Jackson’s head and heart. But why, he kept asking. And how do you answer that?

    As this season approaches he is talking up Geelong. He is wearing the cap and jumper. But when Ablett’s name comes up he stutters and stops. Still uncertain about how the past and the present must live on regardless.

  7. Dave Nadel says

    The longer this goes on the more the Gazza junior story is reminding me of the Ron Barassi junior story. I have always been sceptical of football historians and journalists who date modern professional football from Barassi’s defection from Melbourne to Carlton. Historically, footballers changing teams goes back to the dawn of football. Tom Wills played for three teams. The famous Roy Cazaly played as many games for St Kilda sa he did for South. When Dan Minogue left Collingwood for Richmond after WW1 it caused deep anger at the Pies and jubilation at the Tigers. As a 17 year old Pies fan over the summer of 64-5 I wasn’t fussed by Barassi’s defection from one team I disliked to another that I also disliked.

    Watching, reading and listening to the reaction of Cats fans to the move of Gary Junior to the Gold Coast, I am reconsidering my response to Barassi’s move. Like Gary, Ron was the son of a legend. Ron Barassi senior wasn’t necessarily the greatest Demon of all time, he didn’t live long enough to fulfill his potential. But he died a War hero at Tobruk and that made him a legend at Melbourne as much Gary senior’s brilliant play made him a legend at Geelong. Like Gary, Ron jnr was raised at and partially by, the club. As most of you are aware, the teenage Ron Barassi lived at the home of his coach, Norm Smith. On the field, Barass played in six Melbourne Premiership and was probably essential for several of them. Certainly most Pies’ fans believe that Hooker Harrison’s job on Barassi in ’58 was a major factor in Collinwood winning the flag.

    Maybe there are some players who are seen as the soul of the club and their departure rips the heart out of the club. I still think the poor performance of Melbourne since 1965 relates more to the sacking of Norm Smith than the defection of Ron Barassi, but after watching the grief at the cattery over Gary Junior I am wondering if I have been wrong all these years.

  8. Dave, It’s a good topic. If you have time to expand a little this would make a good Almanac article in its own right. I think the significance given to the Barassi ‘defection’ (perjorative) iwas circumstantial – but certainly it was in the public memory whe I was a kid (say 1968 to 1972) and I revisited the issue historiographically in the mid-90s and agree that was the widely held view.

  9. Pamela Sherpa says

    Perhaps Geelong fans could console themselves and their children by considering themselves lucky to have had the Abletts at all, considering Gary snr started at Hawthorn where his brothers played..

  10. Rick Kane says

    I should stress Pamela (#9), that I’m NOT a Cats fan. In fact I’m a Hawks supporter … from Drouin. Geoff Ablett was a key reason I started barracking for Hawthorn all those years ago, as a kid growing up on the other side of the island in Perth. My father told me stories of the Ablett family’s magical abilities with the ball. There was another brother Kevin, who was supposedly the best of the lot. And then there was Gary Snr. I mis-spent my youth imagining how he could lift the already mighty Hawks. And then he absconded to the Cats (well Myrtleford first). I’m not a Cats supporter at all. But for my son, what the hell, I’ll like them a little bit.


  11. I have a friend who played in a few flags at Hawthorn and he told me that they arrived at Drouin for a practice match about two and a half decades ago and many of the locals were wearing monogramed T shirts stating “I got bashed by the Abletts”

    Tough town.

  12. Gary jnr was only at Geelong because of the unfair draft compromising father/son rule.

  13. Andrew Fithall says

    Now Drouin produces nice boys like Daisy Thomas.

  14. A bit late on the scene on this one, but could someone walk me through an “infernal flood”?

    Beautiful piece though, Gerard.

    Marrying into a fellow Geelong family must have been a relief, though it does remind me of Nick Hornby when he was dating a fellow Arsenal fan in Fever Pitch. When the topic of children arose, she suggested that when they had children the two of them would attend matches on alternate weekends, whilst the other looked after the children. Hence I married a non-believer.

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