Gary Ablett has been missing from Geelong’s side of late but the Cats champion is showing why he’s still one of the AFL’s biggest winners.
The 36-year-old left his side’s Perth hub in July and provided one of the season’s most touching images when he was reunited in Melbourne with son Levi — who the footy icon revealed earlier had been diagnosed with a rare degenerative condition.
But Ablett is now serving out his quarantine period as he prepares to return for the finals and has been part of a “hub club” with players from other teams also working their way back to full fitness in the AFL’s transition hub.
The classy midfielder has been fine-tuning his skills alongside the likes of Dan Hannebery and Jade Gresham (St Kilda) and Shane Edwards (Richmond) as the returning stars ensure they’re cherry ripe for their end-of-season cameos.
Edwards said it was “surreal” training with the dual Brownlow medallist, calling him an “amazing bloke”.
And he’s not the only one who thinks that, as Collingwood president Eddie McGuire told a touching story about Ablett’s generosity towards young fans desperate to mingle with the famous footy figure.
“One of the best things I’ve ever seen was a couple of days ago. All the kids, little kids from five years of age up to 13 or 14, came from everywhere when Gary Ablett went out with Levi, his little baby in his hands and ran around and played in a practice match,” McGuire said on the Triple M Hot Breakfast.
“Then Gary stayed out on the ground for the best part of 90 minutes with every kid playing footy with them. It was unbelievable.
“Parents of kids and wives and girlfriends of all the opponents in the AFL all ran and got photos of the great Gary Ablett being out there with their kids.
“It was just one of the most touching, beautiful moments.
“Not only that, all the other players out there just wanted to play with Gary!”
Ablett’s wife Jordan was thankful AFL photographer Michael Wilson was on hand to capture the special scenes.
“Levi absolutely loving life! Thank you so much @michaelcwillson for capturing these moments yesterday. So beautiful!” she wrote on Instagram.
On an Instagram post of his own with the photos, Ablett wrote: “Levi having lots of fun with all of his new friends.”
You can scroll through the post below to check out the awesome happy snaps.
Geelong is fourth with one match to play and will be hoping to rebound after Friday night’s loss to Richmond.
Ablett will be a valuable addition to the side and he’s in good condition after training in the transition hub with his rivals, who he said have now become friends.
“Not long now until we join our playing groups but I must say, it’s been a real highlight training alongside these boys over the last couple of weeks,” Ablett wrote on Instagram.
“To come into the hub only ever knowing them as opponents, but now leaving having them as mates (including the other boys not in the photo too) is pretty special.”
Little Levi will watch dad strut his stuff when he laces up the boots again and Ablett gave a heartwarming update on his son late last month after opening up earlier about his health issues.
“We got some special boots fitted for our brave boy yesterday,” Ablett wrote. “He’s a happy and determined boy who is showing our family there is so much to be grateful for.”