The importance of being Ablett

I had my first Metricon Stadium experience last Saturday night, as the Gold Coast played host to Queensland’s inaugural Expansion Derby.

With a community atmosphere unlike any major stadium I have ever been to, the Suns’ home ground brings a touch of the grassroots to the elite football environment, much like the side itself.

It turned out to be an historic night on the glitter strip, as the Suns claimed their first home victory, but there was something else that left a far greater impression on me than the result.

As a Brisbane Lions member, I have seen the Suns live a couple of times at the Gabba and, along with everyone else, marvelled at the enigma that is their captain, Gary Ablett.

The magic he weaves with a football in hand is well known, to say the least, but he brings so much more  to the Suns.

This became incredibly clear to me on the weekend, with the crowd, almost exclusively Gold Coast supporters, reserved their loudest cheers for Ablett.

The reaction to his mere presence showed that the Suns need Ablett as much for his aura as his skilfulness.

The 2009 Brownlow Medallist does not say much off the field, but he is a general on the pitch, leading communication and regularly approaching his teammates with encouraging words and tips.

Ablett’s professionalism and commitment sets the bar for his teammates as they develop and provides a focal point around which to build a strong club culture.

His transformation from under-performing footballer with a famous name to the best player in the country shows the importance that attitude plays in on-field performances.

His character adds just as much value to the Suns’ chances of surviving on the Gold Coast as 50 possessions a game ever could.

From a fan perspective, Ablett provides a reference point for people to understand the club and its message.

In a time when teams like Port Adelaide are criticised for failing to stand for anything, Ablett’s presence at the Gold Coast means it will not be so wishy-washy.

He leads the way in his passion and work ethic and around him the club will create a strong culture and one that Suns and opposition supporters alike can respect.

Looking over the play, far above ground level (and sometimes on the interchange bench) at Metricon on Saturday was another man, who has single-handedly attempted to change the face of AFL football for decades.

Giants coach Kevin Sheedy is the GWS version of Ablett, and he hasn’t been a footy player in decades.

For the two expansion clubs, the development of a cultural focal point is crucial for attracting the hearts and minds of their local market.

In a hostile market like GWS, the voice of someone like Sheedy needs to be heard above the noise of competing codes.

With his words, Sheedy has established the Giants’ culture in the same way that Ablett’s on-field actions do.

Most importantly, the legacy that Ablett and Sheedy leave when they inevitably depart their clubs, will remain a marker of their significance in building something from the ground up.

With these men in their corners, the two fledgling clubs are laying the foundations of two great clubs, separate to their win-loss records.

And judging by the extent to which Ablett and Sheedy are revered by their fans and clubs, they are on the right path.



  1. pamela sherpa says

    Likewise Beth, I had my first experience at Metricon Stadium last Saturday and I agree with your observations about the fans, Ablett and Sheedy.

  2. Mark Doyle says

    A good article! I hope that conservative parochial Melbourne people like Dave Nadel take note about showing a lack of respect for ‘manufactured’ footy clubs in the 21st century. I suspect that the origin of Melbourne clubs in the late 19th century were also ‘manufactured’.

    I am pleased to see Gary Ablett jnr.’s development as captain of the Gold Coast as well as his maintaining very high standards as a player.As a selfish Geelong supporter, I wish he was still a Cat. When he joined Gold Coast Football Club a couple of years back, he stated that, apart from the ‘tattslotto’ paycheck, he forsaw an opportunity to develop his leadership qualities. He is a great role model for his team mates and hopefully he will be still playing good footy in a few years when the team is more competitive and winning games.

    I look forward to attending a game at Metricon Stadium sometime in the future. It has been based on Simonds Stadium in Geelong which is a great community venue to watch AFL footy.

  3. John Harms says

    Beth, I enjoyed the piece. I also had my first look at Metricon a few weeks ago. Love it. Love the parklands feel. (Don’t like the logistics of the buses) I agree with the community footy feel.

    For a further discussion of G Ablett and his leadership see Matt Zurbo’s fine essay in last year’s Footy Almanac (book).

  4. Richard Naco says

    The really interesting whispers doing the rounds here in Sydney at the moment is that G.Ablett (Jnr) will be plying his trade in G.Long sooner rather than later.

    Something about all the $,000s in the world not counting anything as much as another legitimate tilt at even more premierships.

  5. RN,
    I’ve always assumed he will be back with the Cats in 2016 at the end of his contract – filling the goal square like his father, kicking 130 goals. If the 2011 flag wasn’t enough, games like that against the Hawks must tear him apart. Who did the GC play the next day? Melbourne? Imagine little Gaz trying to get up for that.

  6. Mark Doyle says

    To Richard Naco and cookie, I think you do not appreciate the integrity and the morality and ethics of Gary Ablett jnr. with your comments. I believe that he will play football for Gold Coast for the rest of his career. This belief is based on hearing from an aunt of his girlfriend in Albury about a year ago when she said that he is a very loyal and considerate person with good standards of morality and ethical behavior. He demonstrated excellent loyality and committment to the Geelong Footy Club between 2002 and 2010 and the main reason he left Geelong was a ‘tattslotto’ offer which will guarantee his financial future.

  7. pamela sherpa says

    Mark,I have seen the Suns play twice this year . Gary Ablett plays his heart and soul out for them just like the did at Geelong .The affection and appreciation the Gold Coast crowd has for him is very potent and I reckon he will stay north simply because the weather is so much better!

  8. Bah, Humbug!

  9. Stephen Cooke says

    Doyle, I am morally moribund. I am surprised at your lack of astuteness. You disappoint me.

  10. Let us all be thankful that G Ablett Jnr turned out to be the fine young fellow he so obviously is.

    Every one of us who followed footy in the late 80’s to mid 90’s should know exactly what I mean.

  11. Your right Smokie, good point.

    He could have turned out like King Carey

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