Gary Ablett Jr’s final moments on an AFL field weren’t the blaze of premiership glory Geelong fans had been hoping for, but a fitting tribute was nonetheless paid to the 357-game veteran after Saturday night’s final siren.
Richmond proved too good for the Cats, claiming a 31-point victory and their third premiership in four years thanks to their 12.9.81 to 7.8.50 triumph.
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In the midst of the celebrations however, Tigers captain Trent Cotchin sought out his Cats counterpart Joel Selwood to organise a guard of honour for Ablett, who announced his retirement prior to Saturday night’s decider.
It was a fitting tribute to one of the game’s modern greats, but fans have since noticed an extra detail on the Richmond side of the guard of honour which won the victorious Tigers plenty of respect.
Richmond had already been presented their premiership medals when Ablett was given his rousing send-off, but all the Tigers players and coaches removed them prior to the Geelong star leaving the field for the final time.
The decision to remove their medals was widely praised as a classy move by fans, after it was noticed by Facebook page The Mongrel Punt.
“Not one Richmond player is wearing their Premiership Medallion,” the page’s post read.
“Even in a moment that was all about them, they put it aside and paid respect to give Ablett the moment he deserved.
“That's absolute class.”
Gary Ablett Jr’s touching moment after AFL retirement
Ablett apologised to Geelong supporters for failing to deliver them the AFL premiership in his final match.
The 36-year-old suffered a suspected fracture to his left shoulder in a tackle during the opening five minutes and was clearly hindered by the injury throughout the match, finishing with 12 disposals.
He was given a guard of honour by Geelong and Richmond players - who paused their premiership celebrations to send him off - as he walked off the ground.
The disappointing end came on the back of a difficult year for Ablett, during which his young son Levi was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease and wife Jordan lost her mother to cancer.
Ablett took to Instagram on Sunday to post a farewell message.
“What a journey it’s been ... I'm sorry to all the @geelongcats supporters that we couldn't get it done for you last night,” Ablett wrote.
What a journey it’s been... I’m sorry to all the @geelongcats supporters that we couldn’t get it done for you last night. However, thank you for the way you have cheered us on throughout the 2020 season and through all of its challenges. I’m so incredibly proud of this group and the entire footy club. You have all, (including everyone involved in the @afl ) put so much of your time, energy and heart into making this season go ahead. THANK YOU! I’m going to miss playing the game that I love and have loved since I was a kid watching my Dad play. It has brought me so much joy! There’s so many people that I will need to thank for investing into my career, both professionally and personally but it would be impossible to make mention of everyone here. Congratulations to @richmond_fc what an outstanding achievement to have won your third premiership in the last four years. Well done! I also just want to thank you very much for pausing your celebrations last night to send me off with a guard of honour. Lastly to my family, there’s no way I could have achieved what I have without your constant love, encouragement and support... I’m looking forward to what’s to come for our family. @jordan_ablett
A post shared by GARY ABLETT (@garyablettjnr) on
“However, thank you for the way you have cheered us on throughout the 2020 season and through all of its challenges.
“I'm so incredibly proud of this group and the entire footy club.
“You have all, (including everyone involved in the @afl ) put so much of your time, energy and heart into making this season go ahead. THANK YOU!”
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