He is considered one of the greatest champions of the modern era in the AFL with two Brownlow medals and two premierships.
Geelong superstar Gary Ablett Jr will take to the field for the 357th and final time when the Cats face Richmond Tigers on Saturday night in the AFL decision maker in Gabba in Brisbane.
The champion has suffered his share of personal heartbreak over his son’s battle with a rare degenerative disease, his mother-in-law’s recent loss to cancer, his sister’s fatal drug overdose, and a famous athletic father who spent five days on a heroin-fed bender. which resulted in the tragic death of a friend 20 years ago.
Ablett Jr., one of four children, was always destined to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, who has since described his son as the greatest midfielder to ever play the game.
Ablett Jr is on the hunt for his third premiership with the Cats, compared to his dad who missed premiership glory despite being part of four grand finals.
Gary Ablett Jr. plays his last AFL match on Saturday evening with wife Jordan and baby Levi cheering him on from the stands
Ablett Jr amazed fans with his erratic skills on the field when he made his AFL debut in 2002 as an 18-year-old with a baby face.
Ablett Jnr won two premierships with Cats in 2007 and 2009 before heading north for a fresh start with the Gold Coast Suns when they joined the AFL in 2011.
He spent eight seasons with the Suns before returning home in late 2017 after the tragic loss of his sister Natasha.
She was found dead in a friend’s front yard in Geelong after a deadly cocktail of illegal drugs, including fentanyl, hours after fleeing a mental health clinic.
The eldest of the Ablett siblings, Natasha 35, had struggled with mental health and drug problems for years, and had been battling schizophrenia since she was a teenager.
‘A lot of people probably make assumptions about why I made this decision; few people know why, ”Ablett Jr. wrote. on his website a few days before her death.
His father is the legendary Gary Ablett. The Cats Champion pictured with his four children Natasha and Gary Jr (back) and Nathan and Alisha (front)
Alisha Ablett paid tribute to sister Natasha in a heartfelt Instagram post after her death in 2017, saying growing up with her and their brothers Gary and Nathan was the “ best gift in the world. ”
“I have to be at home with my family, with whom I have traveled long distances for the past seven years.”
“My sisters, my brother, and parents all play a big part in my life, and it’s time I made myself more available to them and others at home.”
But as most people know, success and sacrifice go hand in hand. As grateful as I am for my career and everything that entails, most of my life has kept other areas in the background during that time. ‘
Ablett Jr’s surviving sister, Alisha, posted a heartfelt tribute to her Instagram page, sharing an old family photo of the four kids.
‘The best gift in the world to grow up with these scallywags! Natasha – you were the strongest woman I’ve ever known with an absolute heart of gold! 1982-2017 ‘.
A coroner found out earlier this year that Natasha was a frequent escapee mental health worker who fled 36 times during her troubled life.
“I note that despite the significant challenges that Natasha’s mental health problems pose, compounded by her propensity to self-medicate with illegal drugs, her family never stopped loving or supporting her,” said coroner John Olle.
In 2000, 19-year-old teenager Alicia Horan died in Ablett Sr.’s hotel room in Melbourne during a five-day drug addiction with the retired AFL champion.
Ms. Horan’s heartbroken father has since expressed persistent anger at how Ablett Sr. escaped punishment for his role in her death.
AFL legend Gary Ablett (pictured with grandson Levi) faced controversy after a young woman died in his hotel room in 2000, three years after he retired
Alan Horan said he’s never seen anything like Ablett Sr. has heard since the legal proceedings ended – which consisted of an inquest into her death in 2001 and the ex-footy star’s guilty plea for drug possession in 2002.
Ablett Sr. declined to answer most inquiries in the inquest to avoid impeaching himself before a future trial.
The fallout from Ms. Horan’s death has delayed Ablett Snr’s admission to the AFL Hall of Fame until 2005, and he has still not been elevated to the official rank of Legend.
Horan lashed out at the public remorse of Ablett Sr. in 2007, saying he hoped the football star would simply “take an overdose and die.”
‘He never said sorry, but I didn’t expect it from that animal. I would have been surprised if he had, ”said Mr. Horan Herald Sun in November 2018.
‘She was nobody. She was just a little person who got involved with that animal and the football clubs and everyone else thought Ablett Sr was God, ”said Mr. Horan.
The 2020 season was an emotional rollercoaster for Ablett Jr. because of COVID-19 and personal heartbreak.
He left the AFL hub in Perth in July and returned to Melbourne to be with his wife Jordan and their 17-month-old son Levi, weeks after the couple revealed their infant son had a rare degenerative disease.
“We thank you for your love and support and want to emphasize how grateful we are to be Levi’s parents,” wrote Ablett Jr. at the time.
“He is a real blessing to us and our families and we love him so much. Anyone who knows him knows how happy he is and that he always has a smile on his face. ‘
The message from Ablett Jr. was followed by a heartfelt open letter to their son uploaded to his wife’s Instagram account.
Jordan Ablett has constantly been by her son Levi’s side as he battles a rare disease
“For our dearest Levi, words will never be enough to express how full our hearts are of love for you,” reads the message.
“You’ve only been with us for a short time, but you’ve already taught us more than some people learn in a lifetime.”
Although it has been a difficult journey and become the beginning of life, your diagnosis does not take away from our love for you.
Your joy is contagious and you cannot even steal this disease. We pray for you every day and we will keep taking every day as it comes.
‘You are so loved by all the people in your world and you are and will always be a true miracle.
‘We have no doubt that we are your parents for a reason, and we feel a great privilege to be burdened with such a great and precious responsibility.
“We don’t know what brings our future together, but we do know you never have to feel alone.”
Ablett Jr and wife Jordan also recently mourned the loss of her mother Trudy (pictured with grandson Levi)
Adorable toddler Levi Ablett hopes to hold the AFL premiership cup again on Saturday night
The couple also mourned the death of Jordan’s mother Trudy in August after her long battle with cancer.
Ablett Jr has fled Melbourne to rejoin the Cats at their Gold Coast AFL hub, along with his wife and infant son.
“ It was very sad to see my mother living her final months at home under Stage 3 and then 4 Covid restrictions, preventing her from having those ‘burdens’ with those she loved, ” Jordan wrote earlier this month.
‘Going on and losing mom (my biggest encouragement) is something that will always hurt. Words simply cannot express what I feel every day as I navigate these unique and difficult circumstances.
“But in all this I notice that there are so many things to be grateful for.”
The couple retired from the Cats’ Brownlow Medal function on Sunday evening to spend quality time with their son over a dinner of fish and chips while watching the sunset on the beach.
Thinking about all our Cats family back home who can’t be here to celebrate. We know you cheer us on from afar and hopefully we can take that cup home for you. Thank you Jordan and my little man Levi for helping us get this far, ” Ablett Jr. wrote. this week a sweet photo of his beloved duo.
Ablett Sr has paid the ultimate tribute to Gary Jr. in his son’s soon to be released autobiography where he is hailed as the best midfielder to play the game.
“I don’t think there has ever been a better onball player in the history of the AFL, or a player who has performed at such a high level for so long,” he wrote in an excerpt obtained by NewsCorp.
In my playing days, I don’t think I would have had the patience he showed.
“I respected the way he stayed so focused on the ball and always considered him a very disciplined player.”
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Levi will be with Gabba to watch his dad play his last AFL game for the Geelong Cats