The unfashionable Ablett returns

It’s home and away junk time at Metricon today.

The Crows may have finally shrugged a horrible dose of Craig-itis – that cruel affliction that condemns clubs to an endless youth-led rebuilding phase – but they’re still a mile off the pace. And as for the Suns, well, they’re not genuinely a part of things yet. So this afternoon up here in Row J it’s genuinely a case of footy for footy’s sake.

But that’s reason enough. There’s always something to look at.

And my something is seeing Nathan Ablett welcomed back to the show, a place he hasn’t been since bagging three in the last game of 2007. When you consider most of his teammates were in Year Eight back then, it certainly places the whole thing in some kind of perspective.

Credit where it’s due, too.

Last season I watched him lumber fruitlessly around any number of potholed VFL goat tracks. The experts in the outer didn’t miss either. Fubbed marks were jeered. Goallessness was ridiculed. ‘Steak Knives’, they called him. You know, a bonus gift attached to a more significant purchase. It wasn’t fair. He’d been retired a year. He was horribly underdone. In the end, his body failed him. His back went. Calves and hip flexors did strange things.

But despite it all he followed his own quiet, private little path and never really seemed to flinch.

In the end he hung on.

And there he now is, an indicative ‘55’ stamped on his back, making his way on for his Suns debut.

Kudos to you, Ablett Jr. I’m genuinely rapt.

But as he hopefully rises again, another fades away.

Dan Harris, a pesky tough nut hard-baller whose jumper was always the dirtiest, has been forced to throw in the towel. Bad groins and a modern game that was just too quick. They gave him a lap in a car earlier on. He looked flat.

One of the nice guys, Harro, and not just a little sad that the toughest in and under craftsmen can no longer find a place at the table.

Leg speed is so the new black. Selwood has Geelong. Ball has Collingwood. Little surprise they’re the only true exceptions to the rule.

Anyway, to the game.

From the bounce the Crows go bang but the Suns even things up quickly and at 2.1 apiece, I’m thinking a) game on, and b) maybe the Suns might pinch their first win at home. But soon enough Gold Coast’s particularly effective brand of valium kicks in, Adelaide’s Scott Thompson snags something like a million touches, and his Crows take full advantage of pretty much all of them. At the first siren the visitors are on target to hit a double ton.

The Suns punters have the shits, too. So far the crowds here have bought the ‘developing youngster’ shtick hook, line and sinker. More often than not it’s resulted in rather benign goings on. But today there’s cracks appearing. Effort’s being questioned. Individuals are pointed out. “For Christ’s sake, WAKE UP,” yells the bloke in the red suit and Suns-branded Fedora until his facial colour verges on purple. Eventually, inevitably, people get sick of honour in defeat. Apart from anything else, it’s boring.

Bluey McKenna gives the Suns a quarter time shellacking and his boys, thankfully, fire up after the break. Ablett the Older does what he usually does, Brennan’s getting away with one-handed stuff, and Danny Stanley once again shows Collingwood were ridiculously stupid to let him go. He’s a bulldozer of a player and one of the few running out the season with anything resembling steam. If not for his captain, he’d go close in the club’s B and F you’d reckon.

They battle manfully through the third, the Suns. It’s the young blokes this time. Little Dion Prestia, a punchy little nugget from Keilor, looks a player. Swallow’s subbed on and cleans up showy Taylor Walker with a superbly timed tucked shoulder. And all the while the wonderfully combative Karmichael Hunt bleeds for his teammates in the defensive clinches. He’ll be good, Hunt. There’s definitely a spot for him in our game.

The Suns are just twenty-one in arrears at the final change. With early luck in the last, they’ll be well in this. But luck proves evasive. The umps tuck away the whistle and the Suns panic away a few sterling opportunities. On the flipside the Crows arse a couple from tricky spots and pull away late to win by a flattering ten or so goals.

As the Suns leave the arena I look for Nathan. He’s down there, near his brother, face groundward, shoulders sagging, trudging for the race.

To be honest it’s the first I’ve seen of him for over an hour.

Hope he gets another crack.

Everyone likes seeing the unfashionable ones come good.

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