Gary Ablett’s latest heroics left some of the best players in the competition breathless and even prompted his coach to say he was better than his old man – and this week he will be Sydney’s problem.
The dual Brownlow Medallist turned in one of the best performances of his career in Gold Coast’s shock victory over St Kilda and threatens to rain on the Swans’ parade on Saturday as they unfurl last year’s premiership flag.
Finding a way to stop the Suns superstar will be at the top of the priority list for John Longmire’s match committee, particularly given Ablett’s dominant record against the club.
The 28-year-old has averaged 32 possessions and polled 15 of a possible 21 Brownlow votes from his past seven games against the Swans. The only time he did not catch the eye of the umpires was in 2011, when he was injured early in the game.
Ryan O’Keefe and Craig Bird are likely to be the leading contenders for the job of shadowing Ablett, whose ability to win the ball inside the packs combined with his explosive pace makes him one of the most difficult midfielders in the competition to tag.
But there could be some relief for Sydney’s midfield – Ablett could be spending more time in attack.
”There’s no doubt as I get older it’s one thing I’m going to have to do – I’m going to move down forward and play more,” Ablett said. ”We’ve got so many guys who can run through the midfield and the more time we can get into those young guys the better we will get as a team. Each game my role is going to change.”
Ablett was keen to deflect praise towards his teammates on Sunday but plenty of others were lining up to pat him on the back after his match-winning effort of 34 possessions and four goals.
Suns coach Guy McKenna believes the two-time premiership winner at Geelong is better than his father – the great Gary Ablett, whom many regard as one of the best players ever to strap on a boot.
”I had the unfortunate pleasure of playing on his father a couple of times and being on the wrong end on those occasions,” McKenna said. ”I’ve watched Gary closely and he’s humble enough to say his old man is better than he is. I would beg to differ.”
McKenna’s thoughts were echoed by three-time Geelong premiership player James Kelly.
”Surely he isn’t still a jnr #topdog,” Kelly tweeted.
Collingwood’s Dane Swan, the 2011 Brownlow winner, and Ablett’s former teammates Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson were among those in awe of the Suns captain.
”Surely everyone hasn’t just worked out now that Gaz is one of the greatest of all time! Has been for 8 years!! #superstar,” Johnson tweeted.
Swans key forward Sam Reid was impressed by the snippets of Ablett’s game against St Kilda.
”I saw half a quarter of it. I heard everyone on Twitter, Facebook and social media going crazy,” Reid said. ”I only saw 10 minutes but he was pretty good in that 10 minutes.”
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