Gary Ablett Jr returned to the footy field two years after he hung up the boots from the AFL has been sadly cruelled.
The former Geelong and Gold Coast legend joined Palmerston in the Northern Territory for his return, with a crowd packing out TIO Stadium.
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Despite adding the starpower of Ablett to the team, Palmerston fell to reigning premiers St Mary’s 12.12 (84) to 7.11 (53).
The two-time Brownlow Medal winner showed flashes of brilliance, but his return was cut down after a second quarter calf injury.
Ablett fuelled Palmerston’s opening term, playing a key role in setting up the team’s opening two goals.
Unfortunately the injury meant Ablett was limited and spent the remainder of the contest in the forward line and on the bench.
Despite the injury niggle, Ablett had the crowd up and out of their seats in the dying stages of the final quarter after he snagged a mark deep inside forward 50.
Ablett arced around the mark and sent his kick sailing towards the big sticks as the crowd rose in unison, sadly the kick narrowly missed its mark.
Ablett was mobbed after the final siren as eager fans rushed to get up close and personal to the two-time premiership superstar who refused to rule out another return.
“It was really good to come up here and I’m just so thankful to Palmerston for all they’ve done to organise this and support my family,” Ablett Jr said.
“We’ve really enjoyed our time here, would have been good to get the win, but really great group of guys that I got to train with and play with.
“I did my calf in the second quarter, so I won’t be back next week, I made sure to run out the game but the body is telling me it’s not up to this level of footy anymore.
“But I had a lot of fun, and who knows, maybe another game in the future.”
St Mary’s player Kieran Parnell was giving the task of tagging Ablett in the opening quarter, describing it as a dream come true.
“It was amazing obviously, he’s someone a lot of the boys idolised growing up,” Parnell said.
“To share the field with was something I will remember for a long time, and to get the matchup on him was awesome.
“It was a big role obviously, he definitely taught me a few things, even in the AFL no one could stop him, let alone me trying to stop him.
“It was a dream come true. He’s obviously a competitive person, and after the game we shook hands and got a photo which was good.”
St Mary’s showed their dominance in the second half after leading by only six points at halftime.
The 2021/22 premiers kicked six goals to two as they flexed their muscles and defeated the second on the ladder Palmerston to hand them their second loss of the season.
The win makes it three in a row for St Mary’s as they sit in fourth on the ladder with four wins and three losses. Behind the third placed Southern Districts on percentage.