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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Profile: Gary Ablett

With the recent press about the Ablett clan (both on the field and off it), it's timely to go to the source and remember Gary Ablett - the man they call God - as arguably the best player to ever pick up a footy and a person whose very public flaws epitomises the dangers of confusing talent with virtue. The lesson for AFL players and fans is that a "good player" will face temptations and situations that can quickly render them a "bad person".

Growing up in regional Victoria in the 70s, he dropped out of school at 15 and worked as a brickie's labourer. During this period, he successfully avoided jail despite various charges for assault, drug possession and related matters. After an aborted attempt at cracking the big leagues with Hawthorn in 1982, he was picked up by Geelong in 1984, willing to overlook his earlier criminal past and on-field disappointment. This is when his football career took off, and, for over a decade, was perhaps the stand-out player of his time, winning numerous awards. In 1986 he found religion as a born-again Christian. He also retired briefly in 1991 before coming back mid-season and continuing to play until 1997 (35 years old).

Many argue that it was his post-football career when the wheels fell off. Convictions for drugs and other matters were recorded against Gary Ablett before and after his 15 year footy career. None were recorded (of which I'm aware) while he was a carefully managed prize asset of the Geelong Football Club. One explanation is that he stayed away from trouble (including drugs) throughout his 20s. That's not the only possibility.

What is clear is that after football, Gary Ablett was prone to going on drug-fuelled benders lasting several days. During one such spree in 2000, he was holed up in the Park Hyatt with a young woman, Alisha Horan. She was a star-struck 20-year old, "an infatuated fan", who had been accompanying Gary for a couple of days after inquiring about cleaning his house for him. Tragically, she died from a drug overdose after Gary Ablett gave her some of his heroin.


Gary "God" Ablett, left, and Alisha Horan (dec).


Ablett had himself been given a large number of ecstasy tablets - he claims 12 - for free by a well-wisher. Another sports fan (named Butch) gave him a small amount of smack gratis at the notorious Mansion nightclub. (About the most dodgy den I've ever visited. Maybe it was cleaned up since 1997 when I was there - but I doubt it.) The night ended up with Alisha and Gary back at his hotel after they'd consumed the tablets and been drinking heavily. Gary cut up a few lines of heroin, tried to hide it from her, but let her have some when she found him out, telling her it was cocaine.

Up until this point, it may seem like Gary Ablett is living a playboy's dream: strangers giving you free drugs, enough cash to afford swanky hotel rooms and partying with beautiful 20 year old women. But the same lack of character that allows a celebrity sportsman to enjoy themselves in this manner results in fallout for those around them - and then themselves:

In March 2001, coroner Noreen Toohey found that Ms Horan died from a combination of heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines. Ms Toohey said that Ms Horan had "become enmeshed in a culture of alcoholism and drug taking with her football hero" and had been "partying out of her league".(The Age, 28/2/2003)

Ablett was criticised for introducing a young person like Alisha to his seedy world, giving her drugs (including heroin), delays in getting her medical assistance and "protect[ing] his arse" (in the words of Alisha's father) by (lawfully) refusing to testify at the Coroner's inquest. For his involvement in this death, he ended up with a $1500 fine for possession of drugs.

While Ablett has always been regarded by the public as "troubled", these details of just how far he'd gone shocked many. Most of us assumed that this would signal the death-knell for his footy club's ambitions for him to enter the Hall of Fame. In fact, he asked Geelong to stop nominating him, before a surprise announcement of his inclusion just a few months ago.

It's almost impossible to understand how he meets the official criteria of "integrity" and "character". Some, like AFL stalwart Leigh Matthews, believe they should just be dismissed:

"The criteria sounds good when you talk about integrity and character, but you can be the best bloke in the world and if you don't play footy really well, you're not going into the hall of fame - and I don't think you can reverse it."
(The Age, 7/6/2005)

This fuzzy thinking and moral backsliding is typical of an AFL insider: no one is suggesting that "good blokes" are let in solely on the basis of being good. The idea is that you have to be a great football player and NOT be a criminal. Is that so hard to comprehend? But, in the current environment where many are agitating that "fairest" be left out of "best and fairest", it's symptomatic of a footy culture out of control, where winning is all that matters and you do what you can get away with.

AFL Chairman Ron Evans though is trying to have a foot in both camps:

Evans was adamant last night that the AFL Commission would not change its criteria. "I think the 'integrity' and 'character' criteria should stay," he said. "We've applied that to the other inductees and other legends and I think the results speak for themselves." (ibid)


Right, so we should keep the criteria, but water them down to the point that they're meaningless. After all, what kind of "integrity and character" criteria apply when Gary Ablett is let in? It begs the question: who would the criteria exclude?

Gary Ablett was not able to attend the awards night, instead continuing to fight his demons in various rehab clinics around the country. The Hall of Fame induction suggests that footy-loving public of this country has forgotten the naive young women, sacrificed on the altar of fame. But not entirely. After the announcement, some activists had spray-painted a message in metre long letters on the path next to the MCG:

ABLETT
HEROIN HERO


While such blasphemy was scrubbed away within a couple of days, it shows that a few people are still not prepared to accept that such a flawed man should be venerated so widely and so fiercely. No doubt, Gary Ablett would count himself among their number.

*** Update ***


Gary Ablett continues to disgrace himself and his club. Not content with being named the Cats best ever player, he tried to sell a DVD of his acceptance speech to Channel Nine for $20,000. He was in hospital due to a mangled foot from a lawn mower. He pre-recorded his acceptance speech and contacted Channel Nine about a sale. They declined. Gary later had this to say about his tawdry deal:

"I have no idea what DVDs like that are worth," said Ablett, who has fallen on hard times and is understood to be looking for work.

...

"I can honestly say my conscience is clear before God – it's quite an innocent thing what I've done ... but unfortunately the media have put me under the microscope once again and tried to find anything negative in this story that they did exploit and magnify in an aim to discredit my reputation and attack my character once again," he said.(FoxSports, 12/6/2006)

Yeah, Gary, it's always someone else, isn't it? It's never you.

*** UPDATE ***

Gary Ablett has made his first public media remarks about his role in the death of Alisha Horan:

"Apart from the pain and grief of the tragedy, I felt a deep sense of shame and failure over my own behaviour, and I still feel deep regret and remorse. I just wish I had a time machine," he said. (Herald-Sun, 29/11/2007)


He goes on like this for a few more paragraphs, and has a dig at the "tall poppy syndrome" that sees him criticised for, well, his atrocious behaviour.

The timing of his mea culpa is curious. Until you realise he has a book coming out next month. And, no, Alisha Horan isn't mentioned in it. Surprising, no? But it's not that it's a sordid episode that shows him up as a bad and weak person. No, it's because "I don't want to be in any way profiting from that tragedy".

So why is he mentioning her as part of his pre-launch publicity strategy?

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18 Comments:

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  • My advice to Gary Ablett is to be completely and ruthlessly honest with himself and before his God who knows all things. It seems to me that he is addicted to all these drugs and things to cover for the shame he feels inside....and I'm not just talking about the recent events he has been involved in. I bet he has fought feelings of being defective and faulty all his life. His football gift covered it up for a while, driving him on. The drugs are his way of medicating the inner pain. He is unable to live in reality...he cannot cope without them for long. Religion is just another drug in his coping strategy. Can I recommend that he gets a hold of a book called "Toxic Faith" by Stephen Arterburn .And also another great book..."Tired of trying to measure up" by Jeff Van Vonderen available at http://www.innervention.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=1&products_id=3

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:31 am, June 28, 2006  

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  • Well, I'm not sure that Gary reads this blog. Or indeed any blogs for that matter. But I'll be sure to pass your tip on.

    Re: reference to drugs. While Gary is on record as using drugs in the past, there's no reason to make a link to the incident in Geelong yesterday.

    In a fiery record of interview played to the Geelong Magistrates Court yesterday, Vyasa Ofthsea, 31, of Newtown, told police he had spoken to Ablett about his daughter Natasha before the two fought outside a car yard about 11.15pm on Monday.

    Referring to Ms Ablett, who he claims to have known for 16 years, Ofthsea said: "I'd like to know why she robbed my brother's girlfriend … I didn't assault Gary; he assaulted me." (The Age, 27/06/06))


    There are plenty of reasons why he would buy a car from a caryard at 11:15pm and then co-incidentally bump into someone having a financial dispute with his troubled daughter. You should not jump to conclusions.

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:21 am, June 28, 2006  

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  • Why do you comment on something you know nothing about? Is it possible that you have allowed the media to influence, if not completely create, your idea of who this man is. A man is all he is. Is it possible that you have given him a status he didn't seek because the media told you to? Have you required him to owe more to the world than any other person? Why? My guess would be because the media told you so. If the media is your only source of information on the life and thoughts of a man, then may I suggest that you hold your judgement until you get a true idea of reality. Let me ask you, what would the media print about you? Would you want your friends and family to read about you and all you have done? Yes, this man has done many stupid things that have hurt many people. So have I! I'm glad no one reads about it, especially people who allow the media to control their thoughts so greatly! Maybe what Gary needs is to be loved by people who couldn't care less about how well he played a game. Very sad that so many people loved what he did not who he was and now cast judgement on him as though they have a right to.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:45 am, June 28, 2006  

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  • It's not really up to me to judge Gary Ablett, is it? All we can do is hold him up as an example to young footballers and football fans that the excesses of hero-worship come at a price.

    In this vein, Gary's (continuing) story is a case-study in the danger of the proposition that "being good at footy means you can do what you like".

    Where did this come from? Certainly, the media played a huge role in building him up. After all, they've got newspapers to sell. No doubt his club should carry some of the blame, and the league in general. It's probably no coincidence that Gary's career fell between the amateur and professional modes of the game.

    Overpaid, untouchable by police, feted everywhere he went, offered free drugs when he went out, constant sexual advances ... it's a problem faced by most footballers today.

    I hope that in some small way, publishing stories like Gary's will help rid society of the rose-tinted glasses that spells the downfall of many of them - and the repercussions on the rest of of us.

    If you feel strongly about it, you're welcome to publish bad things about me (and this blog) at The Speccy's counter-blog, Speccy Sux. Get in touch and I'll give you an account there.

    By Blogger Greg, at 12:03 pm, June 28, 2006  

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  • aaah greg, greg, greg. what are we to do with you, eh?

    Another day, another wayward misinformed opinion. Oh, not you of coarse. NOPE, I mean everyone else who disagrees with you. Because while Garry was "god" to many when he had a ball in his hand GREG is the mightiest GOD of them all, the man who contols what is read, the man whose words are irrefutable. The man... yeh you get the idea.

    THis whole website is filled with your sanctimonious bullshit and it makes me laugh. You are a funny little man arent you?

    Ok now heres my point. We, in western society, have an unhealthy obsession with celebrity and status. We idolise those who acheive great things in sport and entertainment and yet our greatest treasures, those who make wondrous advances in science and medicine and ideas we ignore and in many times of life demonise for daring to be smarter or better. It is sad and it is tragic.

    I agree wholeheartedly with one of the anonymous bloggers that people loved garry for what he did not who he was and the media perpetuated this. And while Garry enjoyed all the trappings of modern celebrity, money, booze, girls, drugs they were what they were. Traps.

    Garry is not a victim nor should he be victimized. We should all respect his wishes to be left in peace but still admire his prodigious skill and honor his contribution to Australian sport.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:51 pm, July 11, 2006  

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  • He spells his name "Gary".

    Gary is a walking example of the dangers of our "football hero" mentality. Dangers to the public, dangers to the footballer.

    You've correctly identified that this is part of the broader celebrity cult thing that is spinning out of control.

    In the current environment, we can't lionise him for his skills without turning him into a saint.

    That's why sick kids want Gary to visit them in hospital, not to see his drop punt.

    By making people more aware of his shortcomings off the field, hopefully we can temper this hero mindset so that the public (and footballers) will be better off. Putting him in the Hall of Fame is anathema to this goal.

    By Blogger Greg, at 3:05 pm, July 13, 2006  

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  • You are forgetting GOD! forgives those who drift from his flock then ask for forgiveness.. Gary has fell on hard times and has to live with his decisions but that is not for you and I to make judgement.. God shall judge his son (Gatry Ablett Snr) whom he gifted with great talent. That is not for us to decide but be true to ourselves and forgive as God does.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:13 pm, July 14, 2006  

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  • Gary Ablett is (allegedly) being investigated for fraud. The Murdoch press alleges that Ablett's been passing cheques from closed bank accounts through his companies, Ablett Enterprises Pty Ltd and Football Endorsements Pty Ltd.

    What a shame that this man's life has spiralled out of control to this level. I hope the current crops of footy stars witness the fallout from the hero-worship mentality that pervades our society.

    How many more washed-up has-beens on the fringes of drugs and crime will there be before we say enough?

    By Blogger Greg, at 2:36 pm, January 03, 2007  

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  • Before you make comments about fraud and so forth perhaps you might like to make sure they are true. The newspapers the following day discredited the story - stating that he had inadvertantly passed a bad cheque but had paid the other party as soon as he became aware of the situation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:44 pm, January 05, 2007  

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  • Firstly, thanks of the update: the Geelong Advertiser reports police stating it was a civil matter thas has been resolved. This demonstrates the value of a (moderated) open forum like this.

    Secondly, no, I don't have to independently validate news stories covered here. Nor must I conduct my own research into the veracity of media claims.

    I'm a blogger, not a journalist. I'm careful to leave matters of facts to the cited newspapers.

    In other words, it's enough that I cravenly hide by the Murdoch defamation lawyers (and insurers!).

    By Blogger Greg, at 12:23 am, January 06, 2007  

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  • Yes, someone can stuff up. Believe it or not even someone who is in the public eye. Should we hound them after all the shame, not to mention personal regret, for the rest of their lives? Is it more of a shame to see him go through hell or to see someone who is more content to site back and make websites on mistakes which is more damaging to someone getting over it then help? He was a inspiration to many. That doesnt mean he was perfect. I have a question to ask the the administrator of this site- if this was your son or family would you make a site trying to ruin their character further or help them any means possible? Thought so...

    By Anonymous Franky, at 8:38 pm, January 20, 2007  

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  • Good point, Franky. I freely admit that articles like this do nothing to help out Gary Ablett's personal situation. However, that's not my concern. The goal here is to throw a spotlight on the lawlessness, arrogance and hero-worship associated with footballers.

    If current (and prospective) players can take Ablett's story to heart, then maybe this kind of scrutiny will help reduce attacks, rapes, reckless driving, bashings and the rest.

    This site is not aimed at helping Gary Ablett, it's about helping society as a whole.

    By Blogger Greg, at 8:11 pm, January 23, 2007  

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  • I'd just like to firstly mention that Gary Ablett had never faced drugs charges before his football career commenced. Secondly i'd like to mention the amount of charitable organisations and community work Gary has been involved with throughout the years.

    Thirdly i'd like to mention that Gary has never pleaded excuses to his conduct that many deem unforgiveable.

    But i ask the question to many who have left comments about the man. Where does one go?, what can one do after such terrible occurences? According to most saintly messangers on this site the answers are nowhere and nothing.

    Whilst the man continues to struggle through depression, and is currently remaining sober, people need to find something in their life of interest that distracts them from venting such negativity and bitterness. What's happened has happened, their is no excuse. But if it happened to you or a loved one in which i'm sure many have been close to individuals in troublesome times the best thing you can do is encourage and support an individual. Personally Gary has recieved that, but publicly it hasn't occured. The media and no brain bloggers should use such an identity to help spread the reality of such actions that have occured and the consequences they have brought to provide education and answers for others around us that haven't yet committed such wrongs but might won't to start being better human beings. Sports stars are constantly crucified. Next time you see the son's of the greatest player of all time pick up the ball, remember the genius of a father that passed on such talent on the football field. Not the individuals mistakes that i'm sure will last him a life time regardless of how many articles and talk shows dissect the mistakes that a man has made. Life is to short. From Paul. Good luck Gazza.

    By Blogger tobes, at 3:40 pm, February 21, 2007  

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  • Q: What happens when you try to make a moral case to defend the indefensible?

    A: You produce sentences like this:

    no brain bloggers should use such an identity to help spread the reality of such actions that have occured and the consequences they have brought to provide education and answers for others around us that haven't yet committed such wrongs but might won't to start being better human beings

    I reckon this blog goes a long way towards "spreading the reality of such actions".

    By the way, my source for Ablett's early drugs charges was the (cited) Wikipedia article. I acknowledge that the article now states that citations for this point are required. I am not sure how to verify such a claim, short of finding a corrupt police officer with access to LEAP.

    By Blogger Greg, at 4:15 pm, February 21, 2007  

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  • hey, im am a die hard geelog suporter and i just found out that Garry Ablett Snr has the same birthday as me October 1

    From Ashley Pescod

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:56 am, June 22, 2007  

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  • The tragedy is Ablett never got his attention deficits diagnosed.Or his learning disabilities for that matter.History is now repeating itself on Ben Cousins.Revenge on a flawed genius is the perogative of the self indulgent public who are seemingly without fault.Irrespective the public moralism has begun its "dumbing down "of AFL competition.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 pm, October 20, 2007  

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  • All this is disgraceful scuttlebutt, no he's not an Angel but surely free from jealous unsubstantiated accusations such as these. You're the disgrace "anonymous", which is why you will hide from your comments. Weak, Gazza has stood up, he deals with demons far greater than you can imagine, pathetic you and all the jealous knockers

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:27 am, December 08, 2007  

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  • After hearing about Wayne Carey (Wanyker Carey), it remindered me about the going ones of Gary Ablett (Gary Tablet). I like AFL footy now and then, especially when living in a AFL state, however, I am increasingly disliking it...more and more.

    As far as I am concerned they can all neck themselves. Wankers! If he is so sorry, give the parents all his possessions and go live in the bush. Gary Tablet probably crapped on about teamwork and mateship in his playing days - well what about looking after the people you are with - like that girl you had in your care.

    Oh, there is a comment about media and who props who up to be a star etc. AFL is so full of BS that it's just like 'Rock and Roll wrestling' - a joke. I think Fireman, Nurses, Doctors, Police, Soldiers, Saliors and Airman do more for this country than the Wanyker Carey and Gary Tablet.

    I will ack that AFL player are great sportsman - when they don't do drugs and pants underage girls.

    You think the media hipe it up - they do, but you suck it up - FW.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:01 pm, February 02, 2008  

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