AFL superstar Garry Ablett Jr. has revealed he could return to the game halfway through this season after retiring following his team’s 2020 Grand Final defeat.
The 36-year-old decided to leave the game with an impressive 357 elite level matches under his belt after the Richmond Tigers convincingly beat the Geelong Cats in October last year.
His retirement came after a year where Ablett and wife Jordan were rocked by the devastating diagnosis of his son Levi, 2, with a rare degenerative disease, and the death of her mother Trudy after a cancer battle.
But in an interview with The Herald Sun on Saturday, the dual Brownlow medalist said he had spoken to Geelong officials about signing up in the mid-season draft under a short contract that would see him play in the finals.
Ablett (pictured with Levi and wife Jordan) retired after the 2020 season and a third shoulder injury but said he could return halfway through this season
Gary Ablett Jr. kisses his son Levi’s hand after Geelong’s Grand Final match against Richmond in October last year (pictured)
Ablett said he called the Cat’s list management official and former teammate Andrew Mackie after he found out they had signed veterans Isaac Smith, Jeremy Cameron, and Shaun Higgins – with the latter donning Ablett’s number 4 jersey.
‘I said ”mate, if you had let me know you were recruiting those guys I would have stayed around for another year”,’ Ablett said.
‘He had a bit of a laugh and I said ”if there is such a thing as a six or seven-game contract please let me know because I will be ready for the last three or four games of the season and finals football”.’
Still in recovery from his third shoulder reconstruction, Ablett said he would be fit enough to play by July.
He is doing a lot of shoulder rehab to ‘get it strong’ and has started running to build on his fitness.
‘Yes, I am retired and enjoying the time with my family but if Geelong put that to me, then I am open to that conversation. I would then have to weigh it up,’ Ablett said.
The 36-year-old was teary-eyed as he waved goodbye to the crowd at the Gabba when he retired from his 357-game AFL career
Ablett and wife Jordan (pictured) revealed last year that their son Levi has a degenerative medical condition
Some commentators have pointed out Geelong does not have a spare spot on their list so Ablett stepping in would require another team member to be booted.
‘To take away an opportunity for a player that’s been there and done everything right up until that point, to get someone in with four or five games to go would be wrong,’ Hawthorn champ Jordan Lewis told Fox Footy.
Ablett’s retirement at the end of a disrupted 2020 season that was capped off with a Grand Final loss was an emotional moment, compounded by personal tragedies off the field.
The veteran, often called the game’s best ever midfielder, was teary-eyed as he was clapped out of the Gabba in Brisbane.
Before he was farewelled by the league, Ablett greeted his wife Jordan and son Levi on the side of the pitch.
Ablett looks dejected after his 2020 AFL Grand Final clash with Richmond. It was his last game before retirement
Levi was diagnosed with a degenerative condition last year, just months before Ablett’s mother-in-law Trudy Papalia lost her battle to lung cancer in August.
Geelong captain Joel Selwood paid tribute to Ablett’s career in his post-match speech at the 2020 Grand Final.
‘We love ya, and we thank you for what you’ve done for the game,’ Selwood said.
The Abletts first opened up about Levi’s condition last July.
‘We thank you for your love and support and want to emphasise just how grateful we are to be Levi’s parents,’ Ablett Jr wrote at the time.
‘He is a true blessing to us and our family and we love him so deeply. Anyone who knows him knows how full of joy he is and how he always has a smile on his face.’
Ablett Jr’s post was followed with a heartfelt open letter to their little boy uploaded on wife’s Instagram account.
Ablett (pictured with son Levi and his wife) said he is ‘enjoying the time with my family’ but would be open to conversations with Geelong
Ablett suffers an injury during the 2020 AFL Grand Final at The Gabba, Brisbane
‘To our dearest Levi, words will never be enough to express just how full our hearts are of love for you,’ the post reads.
‘You’ve only been with us for a short while but you’ve already taught us more than some people learn in a lifetime.
‘Although it has been a difficult journey and start to life, your diagnosis does not take away any ounce of our love for you.
‘We don’t know what our future holds together but we do know that you’ll never have to feel alone.’
Having played his last game before retirement in Brisbane, Ablett will receive a special farewell on Sunday alongside former teammate Harry Taylor ahead of Geelong’s match against North Melbourne at their home ground of GMHBA stadium.
Ablett is pictured with his wife Jordan, who he married on New Year’s Day in 2016
Ablett (pictured) is considered among the best midfielders to ever play in the AFL