Second Hand Ablett

When I was a kid I wanted a bike. A new bike. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, maybe 10 or 12 years old, but a bike in Montmorency back in the 1970s meant mobility, and mobility meant fun; fun up at Peck’s Dam throwing rocks and smaller kids into the water with the older kids, fun ripping around the dirt tracks in the paddocks over the road, and fun not being at home. The old scooter (it was a rusty brown with white tyres) just didn’t cut it anymore. If you wanted to meet your girlfriend down by the swings in Petrie Park you couldn’t roll up on a scooter.


The kid next door had the most outrageously ostentatious dragster. For starters it was a size 26; most unusual for a dragster. It was shimmering gold, like an ancient Egyptian artefact on the set of Elizabeth Taylor’s “Cleopatra”, with a sissy bar that didn’t just extend up his back, it extended way up over his head!  It had three on the floor (gears I’m talking about), thick, black, cross-country tyres, and flashy ribbons coming out of the handle bars. I’d never seen the like of it. On that Christmas morning, when he unveiled his new machine by tearing up and down our street with his bell ringing, kids emerged from every house and bowed down before it, in awe of its aggressive splendour. Suddenly the new clock radio had lost its lustre, the six pack of state-of-the-art jocks wasn’t all that impressive, and the toy truck that had found its way into your sack of presents (obviously Father Christmas had made a mistake; the truck was supposed to be for my youngest brother) had become an embarrassment. A new magnificence was in our presence.


This new gold machine was a beacon; a mighty golden Sphinx in a desert landscape! On school mornings he would shin down his driveway with the incessant bell announcing his departure, pull an almighty wheelie in the stones, slam the gears into third, and dash up the hill. Meanwhile there I was on a rusty scooter, legging it like a lunatic to keep momentum, watching the glistening Centaur disappear over the horizon and into the arms of any girl in the district.


This bike was the Ron Ely of the African jungle, it was John Wayne on his horse with fists full of Smith and Wessons, or Dirty Harry asking a punk if he felt lucky. It moved like an emu trying to take flight, like Roger Moore’s Aston Martin in pursuit of the evil Russian oligarch, like Gary Ablett after receiving the Scarlett toe poke. It was brutal beauty in action.


The golden dragster came a few years before my bike eventually arrived. And mine arrived on Christmas morning too. I remember leaving my bedroom and wandering into the kitchen. And there it was, leaning against the kitchen bench with my name on it. In the dark of an early Christmas morning, the moonlight was catching its shiny painted frame. I could see hand brakes! (pretty cool in those days), I could make out a carry rack behind the seat. That would have to go. No self-respecting Montmorency boy had a bike with a carry rack. I could make out a new pump slotted into the frame, black handle bar grips, and a big brown seat. My heart raced. Freedom beckoned! I could go anywhere on this thing!


The sun began to peek through the kitchen window illuminating the lino floor. I began to notice a few things about my bike; things that the grey of dawn had hidden. The scratch on the blue frame, the frayed lining on the seat, the wear marks on the handle bar grips. My bike wasn’t new. Obviously, Father Christmas could only stretch the budget so far. My bike wasn’t Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, it was Clint Eastwood in the Bridges of Madison County. There was a hint, a momentary flicker, of disappointment. I stood and looked at my new vehicle of independence. I considered its possibilities not its demeanour and realised that this bike could propel me into the great halls of the big kids. I would be scooter boy no more. Huck Finn eat your heart out. Any suggestion of disappointment vanished very quickly. This wasn’t the golden dragster God, it didn’t have a sissy bar as high as the pine trees, and no bell or flashy ribbons sticking out of the handle bars. It would never purr with the power of one thousand great colts. It wasn’t particularly shiny. The paint job had seen a few winters. The tyres were grey, not racing black. The chrome on the handle bars had a few chips from previous crashes. It wasn’t perfect, but it was mine. And it was sublime.


And Gary Ablett is Geelong’s. A bit older, a bit rusty, and creaking in a few joints. But my heart will race when he pulls on the guernsey just as it did when I first mounted my second-hand bike. And when he wheels onto that right foot, shoulders hunched, cranium over the ball, sizing up the goals, there may be a hint, just a flicker, of disappointment that he no longer moves like the golden dragster, but he could still propel the Cats up into the great halls of the big kids.

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. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Whatever happened to that Carlton supporting kid next door Dips?

  2. It’s incurable romantics like you that’s holding Geelong back Dips.

  3. Swish – I reckon he was a Bomber?
    Wrap – correct…………………probably. Let’s review in 12 months.

  4. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Love it Dips. Ron Ely? Nice comparison.
    My first bike was a Dragster – Queenstown 1977 – Purple handles and silver chrome. Got me to the 80s nicely, although hills were a bugger.
    G.Ablett could be the goalsneak that you need. Reckon one more good year possible if fit.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    All of my Geelong supporting mates (there’s far too many of them in this part of Victoria) are thrilled he’s back. Membership and merchandise sales will be up. He’s probably been recruited to play a little bit as well??

    Nice to see a bit of sentiment in the business of football. Glad he found his way home.

  6. Ablett will be Ablett. He can play footy. We’ll continue to enjoy him from the terrace – while it still exists. And PJ Flynn will still fondle his Ocean Grove shiraz glass and admire him one-out inside 50.

    PS I saved up my lawn-mowing money for a couple of years to buy a Dragstar. It was perfect in Grade 8 – although the 10B2s thought it prissy enough I deserved to be flushed – but it wasn’t ideal in Grade 12 when my knees seemed to hit my chin as I pedalled the back streets to get to Oakey High. (Couldn’t afford to be run over by a cattle truck)

  7. And what’s more, you couldn’t be a rugby league player – not even a five-eighth – and ride a Dragstar. So I changed to golf. Last game of junior rugby league was when I got crunched by one of the Pittsworth toughs – he was 10 stone and I was 6 stone 8 after a 5o cents worth of chips and a Chicko Roll. I think it was Brett Kowitz, who was actually very fair, just much bigger than me.

  8. Players returning to Geelong : The 1970’s. You got me thinking Dips.

    I recall Ken Newland coming back to Kardinia Park after a stint at Footscray. He was past his best. In two seasons he only added 12 more games to his overall tally of 216, though he did kick 6 goals in a tight victory over Melbourne in late 1978. That was his second last match.

    Graham Landy started at Geelong in the 1970’s, then spent quite a time at Richmond, before returning to Geelong. He played 13 games in his two seasons back at the “Cattery”, helping him reach a tally of 174 .

    I hope the return of the SOG, (Son of God), brings better results than with the aforementioned pair.


  9. Dragsters ended up being the Holden Camira of the bike world.

  10. Love the way you Sleepy Hollow Utopians are putting a brave faced on this one. Any amateur psychologist would read into the thread’s constant mention of bikes, that you all wish The Little Master would get on his.

  11. Crikey Wrap, the Flag seems to have come with a slab of Jim Beam and Coke, a Premiership Cup and the capacity to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

  12. Nice dream Dips. Thanks for sharing. I’d settle for a few summers lazing under the Bridges of Madison County with Meryl Streep (hope the Avenging Eagle is not reading this).
    “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” (Thomas Wolfe from the novel of the same name).
    Tears before bedtime.
    “Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I’m crazy for love but I’m not comin’ on
    I’m just payin’ my rent every day in the Tower of Song”
    (Leonard Cohen decd)

  13. Nice Mr. B. Leonard C should have been given the Nobel Prize in Literature. He would have at least had the courtesy to turn up and the humility to make an acceptance speech worthy off the occasion.

    As Sammy Davis Junior said of Frank Sinatra; there’s no excuse for rudeness.

  14. Nearest the pin in next year’s home and away season, before we hear “ABLETT!!!!” after he jags his first sausage roll?

    Round 1,1st quarter, 33.5 seconds in.

  15. When you spend enough time under the desert stars that you can reach out and touch them, wisdom is your reward John.

    As my Mum would have said about the return of SOG, this will all end in tears. And you have to believe me when I say I only have the best interests of the Geelong Football Club at heart. The words of the coach are still ringing in my ear. The ones he delivered after the team’s fateful trip to the PAO in September.

    “I hope no one associated with Geelong falls into the trap of thinking that we were close again and we just have to improve a little bit to go the next step. The cold hard reality is that we have to go back to the start. There are some really good Football teams with a lot of talent that never made the Eight this year, whom I suspect will get a lot better”.

    Take that opening sentence any way you like, but I know how I took it. Sorry I can’t make this Odd Friday, but the topic certainly deserves an NFA analysis at the other Front Bar’s post-scheduled program.

  16. “AAABBLee…..eett?” (diminuendo). G1/Q1/13:13. After the shoulder pops. Shades of Swannie.

  17. Wrap you are spot on. Ablett won’t improve Geelong just a little bit, he’ll improve them a lot. And we have gone back to the start, if you call the start of this most magnificent golden age for Geelong as being circa 2004. We had Ablett then and we have him now. The planets are aligning.

    I wonder what Chappy is up to?

  18. Dips,
    G Ablett junior is one of the very best players I have laid eyes on. I really hope this all ends well. But I fear that it will not.
    Excellent piece, by the way, old mucker!

  19. Sleepy Hollow Dreaming. I can hear The Mamas & The Papas warming up from the bar of the Pooncarie pub.

  20. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Dips very entertaining and yes some memories re old push bike did come flooding back.Will be interesting to see if Ablett body is still going strong in September

  21. Lovely piece, Dips.
    Go Cats!

  22. Chris Murray says

    OH well .Its done now. Buckle up and lets see how far we get.

  23. Warwick Nolan says

    Thanks Dips.
    Love your work . . . And your analogy.

    Let’s hope that GAJ is not “two tyred” ?

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