Australian football player Gary Ablett Jr is considered one of the best footballers. Many of us deserve to learn about this player who was awarded the Leigh Matthews Trophy five times (a record). The Modewarre (near Moriac, Victoria) native spent a large part of his career at the Geelong Cats, from his debut in 2002 until 2010, then at the Gold Coast Football Club since 2011. The former professional Australian footballer also took home the Australian Football League with Geelong in 2007 and 2009. For more interesting facts about his personal life, early days like his childhood, his career beginnings, retirement, and more, keep reading!
20 Gary Ablett Jr Facts: Here’s How He Became A Legend!
1. Who is Gary Ablett Jr?
Gary Ablett Jr. (born 14 May 1984) is a former professional Australian footballer who played for Geelong Football Club and the Gold Coast Suns in the Australian Football League (AFL). During his first season at Geelong, Ablett was awarded a Geelong Best Goalkeeper Award, two Carji Greeves Medals for 2007 and 2009, two Premierships, and the 2009 Brownlow Medal.
His first team leadership and success came between the years 2007-2008 and Gary Ablett Jr would eventually get inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame. At the Gold Coast, Ablett was the club’s inaugural captain, serving in the role for the club’s first six seasons, winning four Gold Coast Suns Club Champion awards (including the first three in club history), two Gold Coast awards for best goalscorer and the 2013 Brownlow Medal, the first Brownlow Medal in the club’s history. Between 2014 and 2018, Ablett suffered a series of injury setbacks; despite this, Ablett played 357 games, the 13th-most in VFL/AFL history at the time.
Ablett is a double or dual premiership player, double Brownlow medalist, five-time Leigh Matthews Trophy winner, three-time AFLCA champion, Player of the Year award winner, and eight-time All Australian award holder.
2. Who is Gary Ablett Jr’s wife?
Having started dating after the 2002 Victorian Football League grand final, Ablett dated Nine Network presenter Lauren Phillips for seven years.
However, in early January 2010 it was confirmed that the footballer and the TV presenter had ended their relationship as Ablett later dated former Canadian model Abby Boulbol.
Soon the Nine Network presenter Lauren Phillips would get together with Ablett by August 2010, however, in September 2012, their relationship ended after nine years together.
At Brownlow’s 2013 medal ceremony, Ablett was accompanied by his next girlfriend Jordan Papalia. On January 1, 2016, Ablett and Papalia were married in Coldstream, Victoria and prior to this, his engagement to Papalia in July was announced which was good news after his disappointing season in 2015 where injury kept him out of all but 6 games.
3. Gary Ablett Jr’s other income ventures included ads:
In an AFL television advertisement titled “AFL: In a League of Its Own” in 2009, Ablett appeared alongside other AFL footballers playing Australian rules football at famous sporting venues around the world.
They were in the midst of other sports being played, including basketball, soccer and American football and you can spot Ablett appearing in a scene dodging cars at an international off-road rally driving event, before kicking the ball to Fremantle player Matthew Pavlich.
The “AFL: In a League of Its Own” ad premiered on television on March 22, 2009.
4. He was born May 14, 1985 in Modewarre:
Gary Ablett Jr has won the hearts of millions of Australians but first he melted his family’s when he was born as the eldest son to Gary and Sue Ablett. Gary Ablett Jr. was born as the oldest of four children, and his childhood coincided with the peak of his father’s football career. His dad Gary Ablett Sr. is an Australian Soccer Hall of Famer and former Hawthorn and Geelong player. He is from the Ablett clan, all descended from Alf and Colleen Ablett.
Back to his parents, Gary and Sue Ablett settled in the rural town of Modewarre, just outside the regional center of Geelong, Victoria. Along with his brother Nathan Ablett regularly attended his father’s training sessions and weekly games.
Geelong players considered the Ablett clan “barefoot pests in rooms” and often engaged in kick-to-kick sessions with the two boys: Ablett Jr and his brother Nathan. Eventually both Nathan Ablett, and his cousin, Luke Ablett would play as top level footballers in the 2000s and 2010s.
As Ablett’s longing to pursue a trade with Geelong would see his career expand, his older sister Natasha died in October 2017 during the trading period.
5. Gary Ablett Jr’s childhood prowess in football:
Ablett Jr grew up playing football with his brother Nathan and as the son of a popular and famous football player from Geelong, Ablett attracted a large following even at the youth level.
Ablett played youth soccer for Modewarre Football Club until he was chosen to play for the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Under-18 Cup competition for the 2001 season.
Because some families of other prospective youth players felt that Ablett was chosen on the basis of his famous family heritage rather than his footballing merits, Ablett’s selection was met with controversy. Nonetheless, Falcons football coach Mick Turner repeatedly dismissed the speculation.
Ablett received state mid-year honors for Victoria Country although still a junior player during the 2001 National Championships.
Ablett entered his name in the 2001 AFL draft at the end of the 2001 season, after spending a year in the TAC Cup.
6. Ablett is both a committed Christian and a member of the “Ablett dynasty”:
Ablett Jr attended Geelong Christian College during his school years and was drafted to Geelong under the father-son rule in the 2001 national draft and has since been recognized as one of the best of all time midfielders.
Ablett’s father, Gary Ablett Sr., and two of his uncles, Geoff and Kevin Ablett used to be senior VFL football players from the 1970s through the 1990s and they belong to the “Ablett dynasty” which is a group of footballers descended from Alf and Colleen Ablett.
In May 2012, it was noted that, in total, Ablett’s family had played a total of 900 games, with his immediate family (Ablett, his father, and his brother) having a combined total of 500 matches.
Ablett’s aunt Fay Ablett married Michael Tuck, who was until the 2016 AFL premiership season the AFL’s all-time games record holder, with whom he had two sons who also played league football: Shane and Travis Tuck. Ablett’s great-uncle, Len Ablett, played in Richmond’s Premiership side in 1943.
7. The 2001 AFL draft and the early years between 2002-2006:
Gary Ablett Jr’s AFL career began when he was selected by Geelong with their fifth pick, and was the 40th overall draft pick in the 2001 AFL draft under the father-son rule. Ablett made his senior debut for the club in the first round of the 2002 AFL season, where he collected 8 eliminations and took 4 points. Ablett made twelve senior appearances in total during the season, before spending the second half of the year with the reserves team.
The first stages in Gary Ablett Jr’s Geelong career began by playing small forward and soon he helped the club’s reserves team win the VFL Premiership in 2002 against Port Melbourne.
Gary Ablett Jr’s success as premiership with the reserves team would soon give birth to his established position in a senior team the following season. Ablett alternated as small forward and midfielder, scoring 26 goals and appearing in all of Geelong’s senior matches during the 2003 AFL season. In a round 2 loss to North Melbourne he received his first Brownlow vote, in a performance in which he recorded 22 eliminations and one goal.
Ablett finished the year ranked first on the club in tackles and after another season without an appearance in the final series, Ablett and his teammates began their 2004 campaign with a performance in the pre-season competition final against St Kilda.
Geelong would go on to qualify for their first finals series in four years and would later be eliminated in the preliminary final by the Brisbane Lions. Over the course of the season, Ablett made 21 total appearances and scored a career-high 35 goals.
Ablett once again finished the year in first place within the club in total tackles (93), and was awarded the club’s best team and most constructive player award at the end of the season.
By 2005, Geelong again qualified for the final series, advancing as far as the semi-finals, before a three-point loss to Sydney ended their season. Ablett’s consistency, reflected in his appearance in every senior game during the year and the team’s 86 tackles, was rewarded with a third place Carji Greeves Medal as the club’s best and fairest player. After back-to-back appearances in the final series, Ablett and Geelong were expected to challenge for the premiership once again in 2006.
After achieving success since the previous year, the club’s 2006 campaign got off to a profitable start when they captured the pre-season NAB Cup, winning their first premiership pre-season minister since 1961.
Ablett scored a career-high six goals during the season against Fremantle in round twelve, before making his 100th appearance for the club in round 22 against Hawthorn. However, the Cats only managed to win 10 games throughout the season and did not qualify for the final series. Ablett finished the season with 35 goals to win the club’s top goalscorer award and once again placed third in the Carji Greeves medal.
8. Ablett was playing permanently for Geelong in 2007 as a midfielder:
Ablett made a permanent move to midfield in 2007 as he helped the Cats finish the back-and-forth season first on the ladder to win the McClelland Trophy and qualify for the final series. Prior to this, he was playing his first five seasons as a small forward who occasionally pushed the ground.
Thanks to Ablett, Geelong advanced to the 2007 AFL Grand Final, in which they defeated Port Adelaide by a record 119 points to win their first title since 1963.
- 19 eliminations,
- one goal, and
- eight tackles in the grand final.
9. He won several awards:
Ablett played in all 25 games of the year, earning several individual accolades. After winning his first prime ministerial position, he was also awarded Australian honors for the first time in his career.
Despite being the favorite to win the 2007 Brownlow Medal, he finished in sixth place with 20 votes behind teammate Jimmy Bartel with 29 votes.
Ablett’s breakout season was recognized by the AFL Players Association as they awarded him the Leigh Matthews Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. His breakthrough season was noted for his increased performance in several major statistical categories: Ablett increased his average disposition to 26.7 (from 16.9 the previous season), kicks per game to 14.3 (from 10.1), and passing hands per game at 12.4 (from 6.8). He ranked first in club and second within the league in total eliminations (667) and total shots (358), and also second in total handball (309).
Ablett also claimed two of the biggest media awards; the Herald Sun Player of the Year awards and Ablett also became the youngest winner of the AFL Coaches Association (AFLCA) ‘Champion Player of the Year’ and the Australian Football Media Association (AFMA) ‘Player of the Year’ awards.
Ablett also became the youngest winner of the AFL Coaches Association (AFLCA) ‘Champion Player of the Year’ and the Australian Football Media Association (AFMA) ‘Player of the Year’ awards.
Ablett completed his streak of individual awards when he received the Carji Greeves Medal as Geelong’s Best and Fairest Player for the first time in his career.
10. Ablett’s 2008 AFL success:
During the 2008 AFL season, Ablett continued to establish his position as one of the best players in the competition.
During this season, he helped the Cats achieve a record 21-win season and was recognized early on when he was selected to play for the Victorian state team in the AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match
His outstanding season helped secure the McClelland Trophy for the second year in a row, however, a groin injury prevented him from participating in the main event.
Geelong advanced to the grand finals for the second year in a row; despite losing just one game during the back-and-forth season, having qualified for the finals series at the top position in the standings, the team was unable to capture the lead as they were defeated by Hawthorn in the grand final.
11. Earning the Norm Smith Medal:
Ablett’s performance in the finale, during which the footballer recorded a total of 34 possessions, five tackles, eight inside 50 and kicked a team-high two goals, was recognized by placing second in voting for the Norm Smith Medal for the best field in the big final.
Since this victorious event, Ablett was featured in 21 games for the season and was awarded full Australian honors for the second year in a row. Geelong coach Mark Thompson described Ablett’s 2008 season as “amazing” and hinted that he wasn’t sure if Ablett could get any better!
Despite entering the 2008 Brownlow Medal count as the favorite once again, Ablett collected 22 votes to finish third behind Adam Cooney.
However, Ablett’s performances throughout the year were further recognized when he received the AFLPA Leigh Matthews Trophy and the AFL Coaches Association ‘Champion Player of the Year’ awards for the second consecutive season.
After increasing his disposition rate once more to 28. 9 possessions per game, Ablett finished second for the Carji Greeves medal to teammate Joel Corey. His 606 eliminations ranked him ninth in the league and his 318 hand passes throughout the season ranked him fourth in the whole competition.
No wonder Geelong coach Mark Thompson cited that he believed Ablett was “at the top of his game”.
12. Ablett won the 2009 AFL Grand Final:
Following the 2008 AFL Grand Final loss, Geelong coach Mark Thompson suggested that Ablett become a more prominent player in the attacking line to provide the team with another scoring option.
Ahead of the 2009 AFL season, Ablett was appointed to the club’s seven-man leadership group and was inducted into the Geelong Football Club Hall of Fame. Both himself and his teammates began their 2009 campaign by winning the NAB Pre-Season Cup for the second time in four years.
13. His first Brownlow Medal in 2009:
During this season as the highest ranked player in the final, Ablett recorded 35 eliminations and kicked three goals to move into second place for the Michael Tuck Medal.
During the fourth round of the NAB Pre-Season Cup, Ablett made his 150th appearance for the club against Adelaide and won lifetime membership with Geelong in the process. Ablett went on to tie Nathan Buckley’s then-record of 46 eliminations in a game while also setting a new record for most handballs in a game (33).
Ablett’s ability to find the ball saw him reach 40 or more kills in a game, a record six times during the season, and 30 or more kills fifteen times.
However, commentators such as Tim Watson claimed that Ablett had become “obsessed with going out and being the best player” and other critics accused him of selfishly playing for individual honors ahead of team values in order to win the Brownlow medal.
Despite this, Ablett helped Geelong finish the back-and-forth campaign with an 18–4 win-loss record to finish second on the ladder and qualify for the final series. After winning against the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood, Geelong advanced to the Grand Final for the third consecutive season. During the final, Ablett collected 25 disposals, six tackles, five inside 50, and kicked a goal to help the Cats defeat St Kilda by 12 points and capture the lead for the second time in three years.
14. Here’s how Gary Ablett Jr won his second premiership by 2010:
Ablett’s performances throughout the season were recognized at the 2009 AFL Players Association Awards, where he received his third consecutive Leigh Matthews Trophy as the AFL Players Association Most Valuable Player.
Ablett’s win made him the first player in history to win the award three times. Ablett also won his third consecutive AFL Coaches Association “Champion Player of the Year” award and was recognized for his record-setting season when he received the 2009 Brownlow Medal.
Ablett received 30 votes to win the award despite missing the most games of any Brownlow winner since the 22-round season was introduced in 1994. Ablett’s role in Geelong’s premiership-winning campaign was further recognized at the end of the season, when he was awarded his second Carji Greeves Medal alongside Corey Enright.
Ablett averaged a career-high and league-leading 33.8 possessions per game all season. Ablett also led the league in total handballs (445), handballs per game (20.2) and possessions contested (256). His 744 total possessions for the season also ranked second within the league, while his 494 undisputed possessions ranked fourth.
15. Joining the Gold Coast in a multimillion-dollar deal:
After and at some points during the 2009 season, speculation continued to increase that Ablett would leave Geelong at the end of 2010 and join the AFL’s newest team, the Gold Coast. Nonetheless, despite the rumors, Ablett continued his own individual success, posting career-high totals for loans (756), marks (106) and goals (44). Ablett would go on to be the runner-up for several awards at the end of the back-and-forth season, including the Carji Greeves Medal and the Brownlow Medal.
On September 29, it was announced that Ablett would be joining Gold Coast in what was understood to be a multi-million dollar deal. He signed a five-year contract worth $9 million with the Gold Coast Football Club, a team that first entered the AFL in 2011.
By January 19, 2011, after much speculation, Ablett was named the inaugural captain of the Suns and during the club’s inaugural season, the Gold Coast finished bottom of the ladder with a 3–19 win-loss record, meaning Ablett missed out on playing in a final for the first time in five years; he still had a breakout individual season, finishing with career highs in tackles (119) and clearances (133) and being named captain on the 2011 Australian team.
He would continue his Gold Coast till 2017.
16. Ablett began playing for Gold Coast in 2011 and by 2012, he won his 2nd Brownlow medal:
By 2012, Ablett continued his individual success, winning his fourth Leigh Matthews Trophy and finishing the season with a career high in shooting (389). In 2013, Ablett had a tremendous season, leading the league in average eliminations (31.2) and taking home his second consecutive Leigh Matthews Trophy (and fifth overall). He also won his second Brownlow Medal, becoming the 14th player in VFL/AFL history to win it twice and the first Gold Coast player to win the award!
Ablett became the fifth player to win Brownlow medals at different clubs, joining Ian Stewart, Peter Moore, Greg Williams and Chris Judd. Ablett had the best season of his career in 2014, averaging 32 possessions and kicking 24 goals before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the Sun’s win against Collingwood in round 16. Despite playing only 15 matches, he still finished third in the Brownlow Medal with 22 votes.
17. Gary Ablett Jr’s first injury problems under Gold Coast:
Ablett’s shoulder injury negatively impacted his 2015 preseason, but he took the field in the Suns’ opening game against Melbourne. He scored two goals and had 19 eliminations in the loss, then had 23 eliminations and kicked a goal in the round 2 loss to St Kilda, but made only one tackle in the two games.
As you can tell, his shoulder was still causing problems, and the Suns’ medical staff sidelined him indefinitely before the third-round clash with Geelong.
Dr. Peter Larkins stated four weeks later that Ablett’s injury status meant he could “miss most of the season”.
Ablett eventually returned for the round 14 match against North Melbourne; Although he started quietly, he was instrumental in the victory, earning 31 eliminations and kicking three goals. He continued to perform well in the next two games, racking up 30 eliminations in each and kicking four goals, however, he was hit with a season-ending injury in the 17th round, suffering a torn medial ligament in his left knee in the first quarter of the Suns’ loss to Adelaide.
The recovery time required would sadly show that he did not play again in the 2015 season.
18. Criticism and controversy as a leader:
Injury related criticism:
Former Geelong player Ablett began drawing criticism from media personalities such as Garry Lyon and Jonathan Brown for his alleged lack of leadership on the Suns’ side. In addition to his numerous losses, some Suns players showed little discipline, and Lyon felt Ablett wasn’t doing enough to prevent indiscretions off the field. When he refused to discuss the issues with Lyon at Triple M, Lyon described Ablett as “immature”.
The following week on Fox Footy’s On The Couch, Jonathan Brown lashed out at Ablett for not taking the field, claiming that the Suns’ doctors cleared him to play and that he should “play through the pain.”
Ablett addressed these criticisms with a press conference on June 3 saying that it was not just a matter of pain and that going back early would be “selfish”.
At AFL 360, Ablett’s former Geelong team coach, Mark Thompson, defended his decision not to play, stating that Ablett’s high standards meant he wouldn’t want to take the field if he couldn’t give 100% effort.
Physical violation related criticism:
After a strong start to the 2019 season, Ablett was offered a one-match suspension, which would have been the first of his career, after hitting Essendon midfielder Dylan Shiel with a forearm to the head in the victory of the Cats round 7.
Lucky for the footballer, the club decided to appeal the suspension in the AFL Court and was ultimately successful, keeping Ablett’s record clean.
Once again an almost identical incident occurred the following week involving North Melbourne public servant Sam Wright. Ablett was not penalized again and a third incident followed two weeks later.
The third incident saw a punch to the jaw by Gold Coast midfielder Anthony Miles; he was again offered a one-match suspension, which the club chose to accept, meaning that for the first time in his career Ablett was suspended after 331 games to that point. After maintaining his fine form upon his return, his best game of the year came in a best-ever 23rd round on the field against Carlton, when he racked up 28 eliminations and kicked three goals.
19. The 2015 recovery led to injury fights in 2016 and trades in 2017:
Ablett was playing for Gold Coast since 2011 and by 2016, Ablett played 14 games for Gold Coast averaging 27 eliminations and six tackles per game. However, the Aussie footballer suffered another season-ending shoulder injury during the round 16 victory over Brisbane. He garnered six votes in the 2016 Brownlow Medal, bringing him to a career total of 220 votes; the highest equal number in history (along with Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell).
The Aussie footballer had not only earned 220 votes, by 2016 he had now received votes in 103 games, placing him second on the list of total games in which votes were awarded to a single player. During that year, Ablett requested a trade from Geelong for “family reasons”.
Stating that he was unsure if he would continue to play after the 2017 season, Ablett later resigned as Suns captain.
Speculation about his commitment to the Suns intensified after the team lost the first two games in the early rounds of the 2017 season.
For his poor performance in the Suns’ 102-point loss to Greater Western Sydney, he was criticized by pundits such as Matthew Lloyd who said that Ablett needed to “hang on” as he no longer played in midfield and was now forced to play in a position that he did not enjoy.
Ablett won his fourth Gold Coast Suns Club Champion award, despite playing only 14 games following the 2017 AFL season where he also garnered 14 votes in the 2017 Brownlow Medal tally, placing him second overall in career votes behind Gary Dempsey.
Polling 3 votes in 3 rounds of the 2017 season, he became the first player to receive the maximum 3 votes in 50 games.
His trade was confirmed on September 26, 2017 when Gold Coast announced that Ablett had requested a trade with Geelong.
Ablett’s reasoning for looking to return home for “family reasons” was serious because he said if no trade was forthcoming he would quit football despite being signed to play for the Gold Coast until the end of 2018.
20. A second career for Geelong began in 2018 and ended by 2020:
Ablett began playing for Geelong in 2018 but his 2018 preseason was marred by injury followed by a significant injury in a Round 3 loss to West Coast.
Although Ablett moved back to Geelong by October 2017, with his return, Ablett received criticism from AFL media figures such as Wayne Carey, who believed that Ablett should not be played in the Cats’ midfield. Following his recovery from injury, Ablett’s form rapidly improved, with the best performance on clay in victory over North Melbourne in Round 12 equaling Sam Mitchell’s record of 121 games with 30 or more possessions.
At the end of the 2019 season, Ablett signed Geelong to a one-year contract, extending his AFL career to the nineteenth season, and announced that it would be his last.
Ablett played his 350th game in Round 5 of the 2020 season against his former club, Gold Coast.
After revealing that his son had been diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease, the Aussie footballer left the Cats’ Perth center after round 7 to be with his wife and son.
But Ablett joined two players in quarantine from the AFL on the Gold Coast hub in September, after discovering that he would not be allowed to play again until the final round trip due to Queensland travel restrictions. The Aussie footballer played his last game in Geelong’s 31-point loss to Richmond in the 2020 AFL Grand Final the following week; he injured his left shoulder early in the match, but continued to play, and subsequent scans revealed that he had played the remainder of the match with a broken shoulder – what a way to leave for the brave soldier of football!