Towns prodigy Jack Martin will get to learn from arguably the AFL’s most prodigious talent when he lands at the Gold Coast Suns later this month.
Suns captain Gary Ablett junior (28) has a swag of individual honours, including the prestigious Brownlow Medal, a record four-times AFL Players Association MVP, three-times AFL Coaches Association ‘Champion Player of the Year’, six-times All-Australian and is a dual premiership player from his time at Geelong — all of which coach Guy McKennna said is helping him grow into a strong mentoring role.
McKennna said Ablett — like many of the fledgling club’s personnel — had adapted to the challenge of leading young players and would play a big part in shaping Martin’s future.
“He’s fantastic and is so driven — it’s taken a couple of years for everyone at the club to settle, find their place and I think Gary now understands that these kids can play and benefit from his guidance,” McKenna said.
“In the back half of the season it was quite evident that he was prepared to let go a little and has done unbelievably well with the boys.
“I keep telling him that I want him to play for seven to 10 years up here and not be burnt out after five because he can’t go on having to do so much and he’s starting to realise that.
“Yet that’s what makes him such a great player — his character says I must win, I’m driven to win and I’ll do anything and everything I can to make sure this side wins.
“We love that about him and it’s fantastic, but he’s just got to back off a little bit and let these boys have their time in the sun, grow up and help him and themselves become better for the experience.”
McKenna said the Suns were also developing a style of play suited to footballers with Martin’s skill-set.
In many ways it’s a combination of the gritty Sydney Swans blended into the exquisite possession-hungry Hawthorn run and spread panache.
“Ultimately it’s about winning games of football. It’s about instilling your brand of football or imprinting your game plan and making a statement about your game plan for longer than the opposition.
“If you control the ball and control the opposition for longer and are able to implement your game style you are going to win the game quite clearly.
“It’s when the opposition get hold of it and you can’t get it back off them that they start to dictate the terms of engagement."