AFL grand final 2020: Geelong Cats' Gary Ablett chases fairytale finish to wonderful career

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Gary Ablett will play his final game on Saturday night in the grand final.

Gary Ablett will play his final game on Saturday night in the grand final.Credit:Glenn Hunt

Geelong champion Gary Ablett has no doubt he has made the right decision to call time on his illustrious career as he aims to become the third-oldest person in the game's history to win a flag when he bows out against Richmond in the 2020 grand final.

In what shapes as a fairytale finish for one of the game's greatest players, the 36-year-old will play his first grand final in 11 years, having left Geelong in 2010 to play with Gold Coast for seven years after being a key player in the Cats' 2007 and 2009 premierships.

Asked in Southport on Sunday whether he had considered continuing in 2021 given his strong form, Ablett didn't hesitate.

"No second thoughts. The game doesn't get easier," Ablett said.

That's despite him making it look easy with his clean hands and sublime skills.

However his body is sorer and his mind is more occupied with other aspects of his life, as he intends to devote his time to his family, which includes his wife Jordan and son Levi, who he revealed earlier this year has a rare degenerative disease.

That doesn't mean the decision to end his career has been an easy one for Ablett. After all, he was born the week after his father Gary snr played his fourth game for the Cats, in May 1984, and began his own career in 2002 just six years after his dad had ended with 1031 goals and 248 games next to his name.

"It has probably been the best 19 years of my life and there is no doubt I am going to miss it. We're very blessed to do what we do," Ablett said.

His decision to continue in 2020 was ambitious. Only Hawthorn's Michael Tuck (38 years and 95 days old in 1991) and Essendon's Charlie Hendy twice (37, 178 in 1924 and 36, 202 in 1923) have won premierships at an older age than Ablett will be when he runs on to the Gabba aged 36 years and 163 days.

But he believed, and now will draw level with his father for grand final appearances as he enters his fourth.

The pair have exchanged text messages and will chat briefly during the build-up. Ablett knows that the message will be, as it has always been, to simply enjoy the game and do his best.

Ablett's best is exceptional and he has shown his ability to adapt too, having refashioned his game as a permanent forward, making every possession count as he applies his golden touch to each one.

Even with such talent Ablett admitted he doubted he still had what it took when he decided to play on in 2020.

"There is always a bit of self-doubt," Ablett said.

"It is not an easy game and the older you get the harder it gets on your body. For me it was about setting those little goals from week to week and just making sure that I knew I wasn't going to be the best player every week."

On Saturday night against the Lions any doubts were extinguished when Ablett gave the game a burst of his football genius.

His first goal was like a brilliant slips catch, his reflexes so sharp that the ball was through the goals before the Lions knew they were in strife. Inside the stadium, the Cats' celebrations were ignored as everyone wondered what had just happened.

His second goal came a moment later when he gathered the ball while running through the 50-metre arc and timed the ball to perfection off his boot to kick the game-breaking goal. It was classic Ablett.

"The old legs have still got a bit left in them," Ablett said.

Those short legs only need to have one more game in them now, his most important for 11 years.

Given his travails in 2020 it's reasonable to wonder whether this premiership will be sweeter than his previous two.

"If you ask me that question afterwards I probably would be able to answer it a little bit better," Ablett said.

The fairytale remains alive. The footballer has not yet dared to wonder what it would be like to live it.

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