Four Quarters week seven

Liam Durkin

WITH Gary Ablett Junior making a guest appearance at the Hill End Football-Netball Club last week, the Four Quarters team thought it would take a look at other members of the Ablett family and their connections to Gippsland.

Junior’s dad grew up in Drouin, alongside four brothers and three sisters.

Three of the Ablett boys, Kevin, Geoff and Gary Senior played AFL football, while sister Fay added another branch to the family tree by marrying Michael Tuck, who went on to become the AFL games record holder.

Interestingly, the Abletts only recently put their family farm at 10 Walton Road, Drouin on the market after 40 years of ownership.

The man known as The Little Master is also no stranger to the Latrobe Valley, having opened the Sporting Excellence Program at Lowanna College in 2015.

Through a strong friendship with current Hill End senior coach Mike Santo, rumours that Ablett was going to play for the Hillmen did the rounds in the lead up to the match last week.

Another Drouin alumni Dale Thomas made headlines as well, after playing a reserves match for Sorrento in the Mornington Peninsula Nepean League on the same weekend. If photos from the day are anything to go by, Daisy has clearly been in a good paddock since retiring.

Here are four members of the Ablett family to have been involved in Gippsland sport.

1. Gary Ablett Senior

THOSE entering the Drouin Football Club social rooms will be immediately greeted by a huge portrait of Ablett Sr, which takes pride of place in the foyer.

Ablett Sr started playing seniors for Drouin at age 16, and was used mainly on a wing for the Hawks.

As a 17-year-old he kicked 62 goals to be third in the West Gippsland Football League senior goalkicking in 1979.

During the year he twice kicked bags of six against Longwarry, seven against Pakenham and 11 against ROC (Rythdale Officer Cardinia).

His prowess as a big game player was enhanced further during that year’s finals series, where he kicked five and three in the second-semi and preliminary final respectively.

As well as football Ablett Sr also played soccer for Drouin, often fronting up on Sunday after playing football the previous day.

Strangely enough the Ablett Sr-Drouin connection isn’t as highly publicised as one might assume for a player often regarded as the greatest to ever play the game.

This might be in keeping with the low profile Ablett Sr kept throughout his career, and even more so in retirement, as he has remained largely out of the public eye, although he did resurface last year in a bizarre video speaking about his coronavirus conspiracy theories.

Ablett Sr was famously reclusive during his playing days, and this air of mystic has arguably enhanced his reputation further.

2. Geoff Ablett

THE oldest of the Abletts to play AFL/VFL football, Geoff coached Moe in 1989 and 1990.

His two brothers Graham and Len also played for Moe, and the Ablett effect saw the Lions into the finals for the first time since 1974 in 1990.

Len ended up playing 29 games in the maroon and blue, while Graham got to 54.

As is often the case with brothers, Graham, who played some reserve grade games for Hawthorn, was said to have been good enough to make it to the top level, but didn’t have the passion.

The appointment of Geoff Ablett added another chapter to Moe’s connection with Hawthorn, as Ablett’s teammate in the Hawks 1976 premiership was Barry Rowlings, who won two best and fairests with Moe before making his way to Glenferrie Oval.

Geoff Ablett played in another Hawthorn premiership in 1978 where he was renowned for his pace, evidenced by him winning four grand final sprints during his career.

Moe Football-Netball Club 200 gamer Billy Pace said he played his best football under Ablett.

“The year I won the best and fairest I was lucky to be coached by Geoff Ablett,” he said.

“It was probably when roles started to come into the game and I had a role in the backline, it was basically to cut off any full forwards leads.

“If Ablett said ‘Pacey you have to go’ I went. I knew that those guys would never let me get hurt.”

3. Luke Ablett

THE son of Kevin, who played 38 games for Hawthorn, Richmond and Geelong, Luke Ablett enjoyed a 133-game career with Sydney that included the drought breaking 2005 premiership.

Luke Ablett may well have been the most maligned person at the MCG if the Swans lost that day, after he kicked the ball across the face of goal and straight to Ben Cousins from deep in defence during the last quarter.

Showing the Drouin connection is still strong, Ablett answered an SOS from the Hawks in 2017, travelling up from Torquay to help fill the reserves team.

His one-off cameo appearance saw the Hawks go down to eventual premiers Morwell 7.8 (50) to 4.8 (32), but 35-year-old Ablett showed no signs of rust, taking out best on ground honours.

4. Nathan Ablett

PERHAPS the most eccentric of all the Abletts, there has been no shortage of Nathan Ablett stories doing the rounds in football parlance over the years.

From failing to appear after half-time of a match at Kardinia Park because he was sitting on a couch in the players room eating grapes, to disappearing from Geelong’s 2007 premiership reunion to play basketball, Nathan Ablett has left possibly the strongest impression from anyone who has played 34 games at the top level.

Ablett carried this eccentricity into Gippsland during a few brief, but memorable outings for the Hallora Cricket Club in the mid-2000s.

Playing against Trafalgar, Ablett caused quite the scene when he strode out to bat wearing a sombrero.

Thinking it was a joke, the Trafalgar bowlers were quickly put to the sword, as Ablett began teeing off, sending a lofted straight drive for six straight through the goals at the Hallora Recreation Reserve.

Ablett only played a handful of games for Hallora, including one with fellow Geelong recruit and Nilma-Darnum product Jason Davenport, who later went on to play 28 games for Port Adealaide.

Ablett’s appearance against Trafalgar was perhaps fitting given the Drouin connection and their rivalry with the Ships.

The hostility between Trafalgar and Drouin in cricket stretches back to at least the 1940s, and only intensified during the Ships last season in the Warragul and District Cricket Association in 2009/10, but that can be a story for another day.

Gippsland greatest sporting family?

IT looks like the Abletts will take some beating as the best sporting family to come out of Gippsland, but do they stand alone?

Some other prominent families include the Knowles brothers from Yinnar.

Brad played first class cricket for Victoria and Western Australia, while Brett played close to 50 matches for St Kilda.

A trio who might rival the Abletts are the Cordy brothers from Traralgon.

Neil Cordy played 235 games for Footscray and Sydney, while younger brother Brian played 124 games for the Bulldogs, and Graeme played 27 games for Footscray and Sydney.

Brian’s sons Ayce and Zaine also played for the Western Bulldogs, with Zaine playing in the Dogs’ 2016 premiership.

Churchill has the Dear brothers, Paul and Greg.

Paul played 123 games and won a Norm Smith Medal for Hawthorn while Greg won three premierships in 190 games for Hawthorn and Richmond.

Can the Valley technically claim Michael Voss as one of their own given he was born in Traralgon and lived in Orbost before moving to Queensland?

Let our newsroom know of any other famous Gippsland sporting families at