Driven up the Walls

It can’t be far away now, perhaps only a matter of a week or two. I wander what the banner line to the article might be?

“Ablett and Suns a Good Fit”


“Suns Shine on Gazza.”


“Walls has Surgery to Remove Stale Egg from Face”


Earlier this year (April 1st in fact), Robert Walls wrote an article in The Age under the headline “Sorry, Gary, you’re no Judd.” In it he pontificated about how wrong things could go for Ablett in Queensland.

“The powers that be won’t admit it”, he surmised, “but they already would have a few concerns about their main man.” At that stage Ablett had hardly pulled a boot on due to niggling injuries (hardly uncommon in the pre-season) and the Suns hadn’t even played their first game. That didn’t stop Walls from pulling out the poison pen.

He questioned Ablett’s off-season trips to Sydney for a wrestling event and to Melbourne for the Grand Prix saying he should have been in Queensland preparing for football. “I would have thought less flying and more training on the Gold Coast would have served him better, especially after such a limited preparation” wrote Walls, despite not being privy to any of Ablett’s pre-season planning.

He rightly described Judd’s emergence as a true great of the game since he journeyed back across the Nullarbor to the Blues, but erroneously compared Judd’s journey through AFL football to Ablett’s. The two couldn’t be more different.


He lavished huge praise on Judd for not merely fitting in at Carlton, but for almost single handedly dragging the club up from the ladder’s dark places. All a fair call in my view. But then he suggested that Ablett might not have “the same mental steel” to do likewise at Gold Coast because his motives for going there were questionable. “He was seduced by the amount of zeros on offer”, wrote Walls, the implication being that Judd’s reasons for moving to Carlton were pure, whereas Ablett’s reasons for moving north were centred around greed. How he reached this view is unclear. In addition, the comparison of Judd going to a long established, wealthy, successful club like Carlton, with Ablett’s monumental task at new club Gold Coast was ludicrous.


In perhaps the most nasty paragraph he qualified  Ablett’s extraordinary achievements in winning the Brownlow, Premiership medallions, MVP awards and the Carji Greeves medals by  stating that “all through this glorious period, ‘Little Gary’ was protected.” An absurd observation for a few reasons:


Firstly because it shows a complete lack of understanding of Geelong’s game plan between, say, 2007 and 2010. It was a game built on relentless and frenetic attack. It relied on freeing up blokes like Ablett by protecting the spaces they ran into. The Cats attacked down the corridor. Often it was Ablett doing the attacking. And yes other players made space for him to do that. Smart footy.


Secondly Walls is intimating that Ablett wasn’t subject to the same disciplines as the rest of the team. This is contrary to the revelation that after the disastrous 2006 season Ablett was given some home truths by his team mates, and told to adhere to the disciplines and fitness levels the squad was aiming for. He did that and went from good to great. No special treatment there.


Thirdly Walls is suggesting by the snide use of the phrase ‘Little Gary’ that Ablett’s enormous accomplishments somehow either belong to others or should be discounted due to the contributions of others. This is extraordinarily derogatory. Could it not be argued that every individual award winner in a team owes his success largely to others? Why single out Ablett? What statistics lead Walls to this conclusion? My recollections are that Ablett’s remarkable ability was, and still is, his capacity to win contested footy. He doesn’t lose his feet and in so doing is prepared to take the hit. This is not the trait of a sook as Walls is intimating.


Interestingly Guy McKenna scoffed at these comments two weeks later on April 12th, by describing Walls as “uneducated” on these matters.

It seems McKenna was right and Walls was miles off the mark.

The Suns have had a mostly successful season as has Gary Ablett. Some are suggesting he could be in line for another Brownlow. Not bad for a bloke with no “mental steel”.

The Suns victories have come against Richmond, supposedly a team on the rise, Brisbane and Port Adelaide. Hardly large scalps, but scalps nonetheless. If the Suns were to be so ineptly lead as Walls was predicting then the victory count could well have been zero. And the question needs to be asked, “Could Judd have done any better?”

The Suns have played some exciting football against Geelong, who they actually lead at half time, Collingwood, the Dogs, who they gave an awful fright to, and St Kilda last week, who only held them off by 20 points.  They’ve also suffered some horrible defeats, which was always on the cards for such a young team. But Ablett has shown no signs of dropping his bundle. The noises out of the Gold Coast remain positive. It seems they are not at all concerned about their main man. And most importantly they are developing some outstanding young talent.

This week he returns to Kardinia Park. He will be welcomed back. Cameron Mooney commented recently that the Geelong boys have marveled at how Ablett has grown as a leader at the Suns, and they would know because many of them still stay in close touch with their old mate. They were willing to give him a chance to develop; Walls had already made up his mind without any evidence last April.

Ablett’s contribution to the Suns will be measured across a number of seasons, as has Judd’s at Carlton, and perhaps he will ultimately come up short of Judd’s lofty achievements, but Ablett’s obvious dedication to the cause in Queensland indicates that he is a true believer, not merely a fellow traveler. It could well turn out that his career is defined by his efforts up north, due in large part to his leadership position, more so than his glittering prizes at Geelong. Time will tell, but he’s off to a promising start.

To be fair to Walls perhaps his piece written in April of this year was designed to strike up controversy, perhaps his aim was to stir up media blogs and footy comment. Fair enough. But considering the nature of the attack he made on Ablett and the progress Ablett and the Suns have made this season, he should now revisit his initial opinion.

Perhaps a ‘mea culpa’ is in order Robert?


About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Andrew Fithall says

    Well done Dips. Rip into him. It is a shame but G Ablett not playing this week due to hamstring injury.

  2. AF – news to me on Ablett! What a pity I was looking forward to seeing him back at KP.

  3. Absence of logic in this case from Walls, as you point out Dips. I agree. His greater crime, though, is joylessness. Give me the romance of Flanagan and Hanlon any day.

  4. Peter Flynn says

    Good rebuttal Dips.

    I don’t read Walls.

  5. Great article Dips. That Walls article infuriated me. I think the sentiment was also the main reason Gazza went to the GC.

    I may well be wrong, but I had a bad feeling he would leave not for money, but because he wanted to prove that he was more than others were crediting him with. When I saw how visibly disappointed he was after not winning the 2008 Brownlow, I knew he was not just a competitive beast, but won that wanted not just recognition, but confirmation, that he was a great player in his own right, and not just Gary Junior.

    The fact that people kept saying that he was only performing at such high levels because of his teamates, was as you say, absurd.

    The little give and gets accounted for possessions 35 to 45, and he still had to work his arse off to get those ones. The 34 possessions before that came from his pure brilliance and work ethic. Last year, he had more of the ball than Judd, was more effective in his usage and kicked 44 goals (Judd’s goal tally was in the teens).

    Clearing the ball from stoppages, I’d prefer Judd because he is simply more explosive off the mark. Every other aspect of the game, I would prefer Gazza with the ball in his hands.

  6. JTH – I think that’s exactly right – “joylessness”. It gets me down.

  7. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Well written Dips,

    a great footballer excels in great, mediocre and crap sides. Gazza is a champ.I don’t mind Wallsy as his role is to fly the flag for old school toughness. If you don’t take him too seriously, he can be mildly amusing.

  8. Thanks Phil. Usually I don’t mind Walls either (excpet as stated above I do find him a bit ‘joyless”) but I thought this article he wrote was particularly vitriolic and uncalled for. I supose he’s getting paid well to do it.

  9. Well argued, Dips. Funny how we think we know the motivations and personalities of sportsmen just by watching how they perform. I know I am guilty of it. The worst sins are laconic (read ‘lazy’ – Josh Fraser or Mark Waugh) or undemonstrative (read ‘doesnt care enough’ – Cadel Evans and Gary Junior were judged guilty of this). Recent events have proved both to be passionate and thoughtful champions, who demonstrate their passion with actions not words.
    My other thought was how demeaning “Little” is when compared with “Junior/Senior” as a way of distinguishing the GAbletts. Cheap shot – I reserve mine for the Umpires coaching/Rules Committee – they deserve it.

  10. Dips,
    Wonderful stuff. I vividly recall the Walls article and remember being just a little curious as to how he could make such assertions so early on.
    Ablett has been fantastic this year.
    The post-match embracing of his former team-mates early in the season shows that there are no
    hard feelings…football at the top level is a business…how could he have refused the $$$ on offer ???
    I believe the Gary Ablett Jnr story is incredible: a player who has risen to the top in spite of the
    pressures he would have undoubtedly faced as a child.

  11. Walls must have forgotten the obscene bidding process which resulted in Judd
    landing at Carlton only by virtue of his ambassadorial role with Visy.

  12. Mark Doyle says

    Good article Dips. Robert Wall’s earlier article just proves he is an ignorant buffoon with liitle understanding of football. His motives were probably to seek a cheap headline.

    Gary Ablett jnr. is a great player and comparisons with Chris Judd, who is also a great player, are spurious. I am not sure that either of them are great captains.

    Ablett has become a great player because of an excellent football culture at Geelong with great coaching and mentoring of Mark Thompson and strong leadership from team mates such as Tom Harley, Cameron Ling, Joel Corey, Cameron Mooney, Corey Enright and Paul Chapman and also blokes such as Neil Balme and Steve Hocking.. I have heard that Corey and Mooney were particularly influential on Ablett during the ‘Leading Teams’ program in 2007.

  13. John Butler says

    Not sure what was obscene about the Judd process Smokie.

    But I agree that GAJ has done extremely well to forge his own career under a very big shadow.

    Shame Gazza is out this Saturday. Robs the game of a lot of interest.

  14. Clearsighted says

    Good piece, Dips.
    RW’s ‘joyless’ comments inevitably carry a Carlton bias. As you state, maybe his article was written to create discussion but the personal slandering of GAJ was beyond the pale.
    Must admit, I haven’t read an article by him, since reading that one. And for years now, in our household, we turn down the sound on televised coverage of games, as the bias that is exposed by TV commentators proselytising the might and right of ‘big’ clubs, becomes a bit much for our heathen hearts.

  15. JB
    Maybe “obscene” is a little over the top. It’s just that I found the whole process a little
    distasteful: Judd saying he would not entertain thoughts of playing with clubs X,Y and Z.
    And then clubs A, B & C fawning over him.

  16. Walls doesn’t even seem to be trying. His articles now just cover why a team has done well this year – revelaing nothing that hasn’t already been said. I think The Age realise this, no prominence for his articles now.

  17. By the way, can anyone remember when Terry Wallace took the media through the Richmond list and said they wouldn’t really contend until about 2012? Tigers fans were horrified then, but I bet they’d take that now.

  18. Cookie,
    Terry Wallace re-inventing himself as a “List Analyst” is one of the
    great ironies of 2011. Absolutely ludicrous.

  19. John Butler says

    I’ve had a good laugh at that as well Smokie.

    They obviously didn’t consult any Doggies or Tiger fans before they made that appointment.

  20. So its unanimous….Robert Walls to launch the 2011 Almanack.
    Everyone will be sitting round po faced drinking [very sour] Lemon Squash lamenting CJudds 3rd B’low. Count me OUT

  21. Are you not allowed to be a critic of Ablett?

  22. Crio,
    Criticise Ablett jnr all you like if its warranted.
    I think Dips is close to the money on the Snipers “early crow” re him though. In time I think Gaz will probably play 5 very good seasons at the Suns. It may take him 7 or 8 years at the current run rate to do it.

  23. i reckon they deserve each other!

  24. Tall poppy syndrome Crio. As one who has never suffered from that affliction I dont follow?? Probably the best thing about the little bloke is that when footy is over he wont be in our faces with ill-informed opinions on football [ergo Brererton] or life [see Crawford]. He will just disappear…

    On a different front did you hear Donny Whitten on 1116 last night? Good iv by Viney & Poults. Usual Teddy stuff but the heart of the Western Suburbs rang out when he described his time in Tocumwal. 2 year contract turned into 4. He bought a pub which he had for 12 years [in his own words] “10 of which I was drunk”.

  25. got the last 5 mins of it. Toc publicans may be a topic soon!

  26. we must be the only blokes in town not watching masterchef? Or there is a pub somewhere full of knackers [hopefully not in Toc’].
    Was it Toc that drew that classic line “Wheres all the chicks?”

  27. Yeah.
    I need to do my race preview but sat down with Tom for Fox teams and now there’s an ESPN Yankees doco.
    Never seen masterchef…as evidenced by tonight’s schnitzel and chips!

  28. Crio – I don’t mind criticism and I don’t suppose Ablett does either – if its justified. I thought Walls had a go at Ablett based on a feeling rather than on facts.

  29. nothing wrong with your choice….Generations of Komps cant be wrong, unless there is accurate pronounciation involved. Gotta wonder what the next person who logs onto almanac will make of this thread. Back on track…
    GAblett V CJudd or any other young footballer who is offered the deal….In the words of Donny Whitten ” They should take it. You gotta chase the quid”

  30. Dips…must admit I have not read the thread. Just baiting Chalk. Never liked Walls but I guess it is a different voice. Don’t have to listen to it.
    Never liked ablett…less so his Dad. Plays alright.

  31. Right with you, Dips. It’s more vindictive than joyless.
    As a Pie man, my “favourite” article from the Paddle Pop Lion was his rant after the 2003 GF. He’d bagged us most of the year, but jumped on board just before the finals, culminating in him actually tipping us to win the big one. When we lost, he took it personally. Tipped a bucketful of bile on us in his Monday column. We’d come second with a bunch of battlers against one of the greatest sides of all time. He should have written about how good Brisbane were, but like a schoolyard bully he decided to sink the boots in.
    He hunts with the powerful (and of course he loves us now). In race form parlance, DISREGARD.

  32. Alovesupreme says

    I’m inclined to the view that Rob Walls may be suffering the complaint, beautifully described by Gareth Evans as relevance deprivation syndrome. He wrote some fine columns in the Age back in the nineties, at the time iirc when he was coaching Brisbane. These were detached and revealed a high degree of self-awareness.
    He has been a fine innovative coach, but now I think he uses his column (I don’t hear him on radio or tv) to settle scores. He had a bite at Guy McKenna a few weeks ago,when McKenna disaparaged the dark days of the Bears on the Gold Coast. Understandably Wallsy took that personally, but if he hadn’t had a column as a pulpit, he might have been better advised not to pick at the scab of the criminal lack of support when he was trying to coach. That it remains a sore point for him is undeniable and justified, but it’s scacrcely relevant.
    His tiff with Zac Dawson didn’t reflect well on either party, but I think the onus was on Wallsy not to bite in that instance.

  33. Walls???? Carlton bias??? Now I’ve heard everything….

    For years his second most annoying habit (behind breathing) has been firing up Carlton’s next opponent by bagging the hell out of them.

  34. Hi Guys

    I’ve just finished a marathon Master Chef viewing, after which I went on to a Master Chef online discussion while writing my Master Chef blog and tweeting about the latest Master Chef drama. Don’t tell anybody but one of the contestants used chicken stock in a vegan dish. Like wow, what’s going to happen in the next episode when Garry, George and Fat Boy Preston find out? Guys, you gotta get onto it.

    So, what are you guys rapping about? Walls? Gary Ablett? Walls reckons what? He’s an idiot in a moron’s clothes. Oh no (said in a superior, yet yawn inspiring voice) I think Renoir is a more accomplished artist than Cezanne, by far. Well, whoop de do Mr Walls. And thank you for your opinion. Thank god he isn’t a judge on Master Chef!

    Cheers & great piece Dips

  35. Dips,
    What did you think of Walls’ articl this morning in the big paper (with a small sport section) ?
    I think Mark Robinson hit on the head when he said that Walls, being a member of “The
    Sacked Coaches Club”, automatically leaps to the defence of any sacked coach.
    His contention that Bailey had no part in the sacking of Junior McDonald (it was “the
    administration”) is preposterous.

  36. Smokie – I actually agreed with his article today. The mail I have is that there are too many chiefs at Melbourne and not enough Indians. Apparently Schwab and Connolly had too big of a say in how the team was to play – at least that’s what I’ve heard. I reckon Melbourne made an error sacking him.

    Not sure about McDonald’s sacking.

  37. Clearsighted says

    Mark Robinson is worse than RWyah. MR cannot construct a definitive statement to save his life.
    But he’s a favourite with the EddiePaper.
    If he appeared as judge on Masterchef, Rick Kane, he would give points for the chicken stock.

  38. i hate Robert Walls -_-

  39. Rick: If Walls saw Van Gogh’s self portrait his expert comment would be: “Van Gogh’s a good painter but he’s always painting himself.”

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