“It broke me as a person”: Ablett tormented by overdose

Gary Ablett Snr has spoken emotionally and openly of his regret and torment over the tragic incident involving Alisha Horan some 20 years ago.

Horan died from a combination of heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines after a binge with Ablett Snr, who continues to grieve over what happened on that fateful day.

Ablett, who is widely regarded the greatest footballer of all-time, admits his pain and suffering may have been too much, had it not been for his strong Christian beliefs.

“There’s been times, especially when, with moral failure some 20 years ago, where I was involved in drugs and there was a young lady that overdosed… I can’t tell you how much that shattered me, how much it broke me as a person, it still grieves me to this day,” an emotional Ablett told Reclink Australia – an organisation that offers evidence-based sport and art programs to disadvantaged Australians to create socially inclusive, life-changing opportunities.

“It’s only been my relationship with Jesus Christ that has got me through,” he added. “Without him, I couldn’t have kept going; after that happened I didn’t want to be here for a number of years and I said to God, ‘you should have taken me instead’. It’s been a very painful experience… if only I could go back in time and change thing I would, unfortunately we don’t get that opportunity.

“That’s why choices in life are so important because once we’ve made a choice or a decision, we don’t get the chance to go back in time and change it.

“We need to make sure that we get our decisions right the first time, that’s been a big lesson for me, but I just wish I had have known that a lot earlier.”

Ablett was charged with four drug offences to which he pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $1500.

The incident at Melbourne’s Park Hyatt Hotel in February 2000 took place 10 years after he was placed on a $10,000 good behaviour bond after pleading guilty to assaulting a man he found sitting in a car with his estranged wife.

Ablett says his checkered past means he can easily connect with people who are in pain and are struggling.

“We all have our issues, and that’s why I certainly can relate to people with mental health issues, whether it’s depression or anxiety, and the temptation to turn to chemicals, whether that’s alcohol or drugs, to try and relieve our emotional pain, to try and get rid of depression… especially long-term mental health issues and things like that,” Ablett explained.

“You can become so desperate, that, sadly, we often begin to compromise and turn to things because none of us likes emotional pain; it can be very draining, especially over a lot of years. The temptation is to try and look to some sort of alternative to try and get rid of your pain to try and cope; it’s called self-medicating… it could be alcohol, drugs, it could be gambling, people get caught up in sexual addictions, all sorts of stuff… as human beings we were created for perfection but there was a fall and we now live with a fallen nature in a fallen world, and unfortunately, that brings with it not just sinfulness but brokenness and pain.

“It’s so easy to want to turn to things, to numb our pain, to escape reality. But, the problem is, when we do that; when the drugs wear off, when the alcohol wears off, we not only wake up with a hangover, but our problems are back worse than ever, often… because what we’ve done while we’re on the drugs or on the drink can obviously add more pain or even shame to our lives.

“It’s so important the company we keep; that we make sure that we’re connecting with and hanging out with people that are going to lead us in the right direction and not the wrong direction.”


Delivering groceries to those in need is a far cry from booting bags of 10 or more and taking hangers on the MCG.

But, 24 years after his final game, that’s exactly what Ablett is doing.

And the three-time Coleman Medallist couldn’t be happier.

“For many years now, whether it’s playing football or working jobs for money… you know, you can do all that, but my heart is really with helping and serving people,” said Ablett, who kicked 1031 goals in 248 games (six for Hawthorn, 242 for Geelong).

“I’ve recently had the pleasure, over the last four or five months, to be able to join in voluntarily with a charitable organisation to help out with delivering groceries for needy families.”

Asked if they know who’s knocking on their door, Ablett replied: “No, they don’t, and boy am I glad! Although, it’s funny, word got around that Gary Ablett was delivering groceries… I think a few of them started calling up asking for groceries just so they could get a photo with me. Once they got their photo they rang up and went off the list again.”

Ablett has never been one to seek the spotlight, however, his extensive list of achievements and acclaim have paid to those plans.

Now 59, Ablett is finally able to take comfort from putting a smile on someone’s face.

“It doesn’t really bother me anymore (being recognised), I’ve got to the point where, if people recognise me and they want to say g’day… if I can be a blessing to them and give them a bit of a thrill, well that’s a real pleasure for me. I really find that quite rewarding,” he said.

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AFL news: Gary Ablett book, retirement, Christian faith, Geelong Cats vs Richmond, 2020 Grand Final

He’s won two grand finals, two Brownlow Medals and a host of other accolades on the biggest stages but the most important day of Gary Ablett’s life happened in a share house in Torquay when he was just 21.

Just beginning to emerge from his father’s sizeable shadow in his early days at Geelong, Ablett’s on-field success was in contrast to where he found himself in his personal life.

That night, Ablett laid in bed crying.

So a young man who had been raised in a Christian home before drifting away from the church in his teens decided to pray.

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“I had a very powerful experience,” the recently-retired AFL great reveals in his just-released autobiography.

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Gary Ablett book, retirement, Christian faith, Geelong Cats vs Richmond, 2020 Grand Final

He’s won two grand finals, two Brownlow Medals and a host of other accolades on the biggest stages but the most important day of Gary Ablett’s life happened in a share house in Torquay when he was just 21.

Just beginning to emerge from his father’s sizeable shadow in his early days at Geelong, Ablett’s on-field success was in contrast to where he found himself in his personal life.

That night, Ablett laid in bed crying.

So a young man who had been raised in a Christian home before drifting away from the church in his teens decided to pray.

“I had a very powerful experience,” the recently-retired AFL great reveals in his just-released autobiography.

“At that time, my football career was beginning to take off and I was finally finding my feet as a regular part of the Geelong line-up.

“There were three particular areas in my life that were really overwhelming me.

RELATED: Incredible Ablett grand final revelation

“This night, I was lying in bed and crying, which prompted me to pray to God, ‘If you’re real, I need your help, because I’m really struggling’. My prayer was as short as that.”

Ablett drifted off to sleep before suddenly waking around 1am “feeling unsettled”.

“I remember sitting up in bed before deciding to go downstairs and watch TV,” he writes.

“I turned the TV on and hadn’t even had time to change the channel before a Christian show began.

“I thought to myself, ‘OK, this is interesting’. Straight away the program touched on one of the very things I was struggling with, and it made me think back to the words I prayed.

“The program rolled straight into another show that touched on the second thing that I was really struggling with.

“Then, no exaggeration, a third show followed, and that one addressed my other worry. Three shows in a row had covered the problems that had been troubling me. I was absolutely buzzing. I just couldn’t believe it.”

“There had been previous times in my life where I had prayed, and then circumstances had changed,” he continues.

“But I would question whether that meant that God was involved or whether it was merely a coincidence.

“But that night, as my simple prayer was answered, the series of events led me to truly believe that God was speaking directly to me.

“It was transformational and became a real turning point in my life.

“From that point, I began not just reading the Bible, but studying it, because I wanted to learn and understand more about God and his character, rather than relying on other people to tell me.

“It was initially comforting to know I had someone there who was never going to let me down, who was always going to be there for me no matter what.”

Ablett discusses his faith at length in Gary Ablett: An Autobiography which was released Thursday.

His father told the Herald Sun last week seeing Ablett develop his own relationship with God meant “more to me than anything he’s achieved on the football field”.

“I always tried to make it clear to my children that it’s OK to want to do well in your profession, but it’s more important to understand that your self-worth isn’t based on how you perform at work, it’s in who you are as children of God and as sons and daughters of their heavenly Father,” Ablett Sr said.

“I tried to lay that foundation for them very early and I do think that has helped them to know that they’re loved for who they are, not what they do.

“After I came to know the Lord, it was great for me to be able to introduce my four children, at a very young age, to the Lord Jesus Christ and to see them form their own relationship with God.

“To see that develop in Gary’s life over the years has been a tremendous pleasure.

“Even through the struggles, the pain and the heartache we experience in this life, to know they’re anchored to the Lord Jesus Christ and that they have that eternal security is very important to me.”

Ablett’s Christian walk progressed during his time with the Gold Coast Suns, where he had several Christian teammates.

“I believe a big part of that development in me has come from studying who God says I am and actually believing it,” he wrote.

“I know that God has blessed me with an ability, and with that has provided a platform.

“I just want to make sure that I’m using what I’ve been given to be a tool for God’s purpose and to help and love others.”

Gary Ablett: An Autobiography, published by Hardie Grant, is out now.

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Ablett bids farewell to Cats fans and AFL

Retiring champion Gary Ablett has apologised to Geelong supporters for failing to deliver them the AFL premiership in his final match.

Ablett made his 357th and last appearance in Saturday night’s Gabba grand final, but had his dreams of a fairytale flag send-off dashed by rampant Richmond.

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 said.

“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!”

Ablett Jnr, the son of Geelong legend Gary Ablett Snr, was recruited under the father-son rule in 2001 and played 247 games for the Cats over two stints, either side of his seven years as the face of expansion club Gold Coast.

He exceeded the great expectations that followed him from an early age, winning the Brownlow Medal in 2009 and 2013 and being a central figure in Geelong’s 2007 and 2009 premiership teams.

“I’m going to miss playing the game that I love and have loved since I was a kid watching my Dad play,” Ablett said.

“It has brought me so much joy!”

Ablett also paid tribute to winners Richmond and thanked his family.

“Congratulations to @richmond_fc what an outstanding achievement to have won your third premiership in the last four years. Well done!” Ablett said.

“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.”

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AFL Grand Final 2020: Gary Ablett retirement, Richmond gesture photo, Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt, AFL 360

Richmond star Jack Riewoldt has revealed Dustin Martin inspired a special element of the tribute given to Gary Ablett after his Grand Final heartbreak on Saturday night.

Ablett, 36, walked into retirement at the Gabba after a nightmare final appearance where he injured his shoulder in the first quarter and tasted the bitterness of defeat on the biggest stage.

While Richmond players were right in the middle of their premiership celebrations following the presentation of the AFL Premiership Cup, the Tigers, led by captain Trent Cotchin, reached out to Geelong skipper Joel Selwood to provide their support for any plan the Cats had to farewell the superstar.

Jack explains class act


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Norm Smith Medal winner Dustin Martin reflects on Richmond Tigers’ premiership, says Gary Ablett is the GOAT

Martin said of his achievement of becoming the first player to win three Norm Smith Medals: “I don’t know what it means to me at the moment. There’s no way I would be able to do it without my teammates, we’re an unbelievable team, it’s not a one-man job, we all do our part and I’m just incredibly grateful to be a member of the team.”

Martin, who was the unanimous choice of the Norm Smith Medal judges as best afield, said becoming a three-time premiership player was “the cool one” rather than the Norm Smith Medals.

“Yeah, that’s the cool one right there. As Dimma just said, the adversity we faced this year, yeah I still can’t believe it – it’s very special and a very special club.”

Martin said the Tigers had started to look like themselves again late in the second quarter, after the Cats had been in control.


“They got off to a good start, but as Dimma said that last five minutes to go in the second quarter, it started to look like Richmond again – credit to the boys we took that into the second half and stuck to the process, couldn’t be prouder.”

Martin acknowledged there had been peaks and troughs in Richmond’s time in the Gold Coast hub this season: “It’s had its ups and downs but we’re an incredible club and we love being around each other and we got through really well and yeah, it’s something we’ll look back at the rest of our lives and say ‘wow it’s really cool.'”

Hardwick observed that Martin’s goals had been really important, with his first coming when the Tigers “couldn’t buy one” in the second quarter.

“Yeah, it was an important goal … we just needed a goal – couldn’t buy one.


“That’s what great players do – they take their opportunies and get the job done. That’s why he sits here with his third Norm Smith really.”

Martin was jocular when asked if he had imminent tattoo plans. “I haven’t got any yet, but George [Jason Castagna] brought his tattoo gun up so I daresay he’ll be getting that out tomorrow.”

Otherwise, the triple Norm Smith medallist suggested he would celebrate with teammates at the hub venue before remaining in Queensland for a time.

“Enjoy it together as a club back at the resort we’re at tonight, tomorrow. And then might stick around here for a little bit and see what happens.” Would he catch Serena Williams again? “Not this year.”

Martin, 29, who joined the Tigers at the same post-season when Hardwick was appointed, 2009, described his coach as like a second father to him.

“The care that he’s got for his players, ever since we started together 10 years ago, you know he’s almost like a second father to a lot of us – he’s a friend first, and then a coach second. I couldn’t be more grateful, you know, he’s helped me become a better person and along with all the other boys as well.”

Martin also had generous words for retired champion Gary Ablett.

Retiring star Gary Ablett is the GOAT, according to Martin.Credit:Getty Images

“He’s the GOAT, isn’t he. He’s had an incredible career, yeah, he’s an amazing player, an amazing person. It was a pleasure to play against him tonight and I wish him all the best.”

Sitting alongside his coach, Martin jested that he would return for pre-season training in February. “That’s just who we are as a group, we’re humble and we’re hungry. Success is awesome and enjoy this one and we’ll be looking to forward to pre-season again – in February.”

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Geelong Cats champion Gary Ablett retires with clipped wing

It was a passage of play instantly etched into grand final history, as though the feared lightning that had been forecast for the Gabba in the lead up had struck without warning, an invisible interruption to mar the first night grand final, in a year that had thrown so much bad luck so many people’s way.

As the stretcher carried Vlastuin away, Ablett’s post-script was being written with social media melting down as everyone watching kicked their proverbial cat in anguish at watching their favourite Cat fall.

But this was not a game Ablett was going to fade from easily. Within 10 minutes a resurrection looked possible as he ran along the boundary and the crowd roared.

This was a different Ablett that emerged, brave enough to tackle Richmond’s David Astbury to the ground, his belief growing as he bounced off the wet turf and rejoined the fray.

Suddenly Ablett’s role wasn’t going to feature goals and moments of exuberant brilliance. His role was to push through his pain to help his team, the bravery and resilience he had displayed in an emotional sense now required in a physical sense.


He still wanted the ball and he was good enough to pull a trick more suited to David Copperfield than to a footballer as he flicked the ball in one motion to his mate Joel Selwood, using his left hand to steady the Sherrin and his right fist to keep the umpires happy.

At half-time he had six touches but he had contributed. When he ran out after the long break only one arm propelled him forward while the other hung limp beside him, as though he was running with one hand in his pocket.

Beginning the second half on the bench, he entered the arena again after eight minutes with the Cats on the ropes after Richmond kicked the first two goals of the half.

Immediately Ablett placed a beautiful handball over to Luke Dahlhaus, who gave it to Gryan Miers – who was just three when Ablett made his debut – who kicked the goal.

A bullet-pass to Tom Hawkins ensured his presence was being felt but he was avoiding contact.

However, just before the end of the quarter, the end seemed to arrive for Ablett, as he was pushed into the turf in the goal square and could not rise from the ground as his arm hung limply by his side, like a bird who could not fly because his wing was damaged.

His magnificent career was over, a second grand final loss to go with his two premierships, two Brownlow Medals and certain passage into the Hall of Fame when the time is right.

But another chapter had been written, a toughness to go with the unmatched skill that will serve as the game’s benchmark for the next generation.

Only his right arm could be raised above his head to say good-bye, a footballing genius farewelled, respected, even loved, the man born to play football who can play no more.

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Gary Ablett classy act, injury, Richmond sportsmanship, Geelong, result

Gary Ablett didn’t end his career the way he hoped but he bowed out a class act.

The Geelong legend — who some believe is the greatest footy player we’ve ever seen — was robbed of his fairytale finish when Richmond beat the Cats 12. 9 (81) to 7.8 (50) in Saturday night’s Grand Final.

Ablett was hugged by his Geelong colleagues as he broke down in tears after his final AFL game.

Even though the retiring star’s heart was breaking, he showed plenty of sportsmanship to put his disappointment aside and go up to Tigers captain Trent Cotchin just before a post-match TV interview and congratulate him on leading Richmond to a third flag in four years.

In his post-match speech, Geelong captain Joel Selwood thanked the “little bald bloke” for his contribution to the game, telling Ablett everyone loved him.

Channel 7 commentator Bruce McAvaney spoke of the “touching scenes” as the 36-year-old was consoled by wife Jordan and son Levi, before both teams gave him a guard of honour to a standing ovation from the crowd.

The Tigers were awesome, showing terrific sportsmanship in delaying their own lap of honour to pay their respects.

Sports broadcaster Shane McInnes tweeted: “Great act of sportsmanship by @Richmond_FC. Have every right to celebrate the flag, yet paused to acknowledge one of the greats of the game in Gary Ablett.”

Channel 7 reporter Nick McCallum wrote: “Showing true class by honouring true class. Wonderful gesture by @Richmond_FC to delay lap of honour to line up to farewell Geelong’s ‘Little Master’ Gary Ablett. A wonderful sign of respect which will last in the memory forever.”

It was a rough night for Ablett from the very beginning, rushed off the Gabba in absolute agony after injuring his shoulder early in the first quarter.

Less than three minutes after the first bounce, Ablett was spotted holding his arm in plenty of pain, before he was taken from the field by a medic.

Replays showed the 36-year-old had landed awkwardly on his left arm after attempting a handball.

McAvaney said: “This is not good for Ablett. He is leaving the ground immediately. You could see him lift his elbow off the ground immediately. This is not a great sight.”

Miraculously, the Little Master returned to the field, fighting through the pain in a desperate attempt to lead the Cats to a premiership.

He suffered another heavy knock in the third quarter and was visibly distressed but again, he ignored his ailment to push on.

Unfortunately, Ablett and Co. were kept quiet by a slick Richmond outfit that added another chapter to its incredible dynasty.

READ: Dusty image speaks louder than words

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Gary Ablett returns to AFL grand final field after arm injury scare as Geelong fairytale stays alive against Richmond

Geelong legend Gary Ablett has returned to the field in the AFL grand final against Richmond after an early injury scare.

The retiring champion hurt his left shoulder in a tackle from Richmond’s Trent Cotchin in a chaotic opening on a slick Gabba surface in Brisbane.

The 36-year-old grimaced as he was helped off the ground by trainers, clutching his left arm, and exited the field to receive assessment from the club doctors.

A huge cheer went around the ground when he re-emerged on the sidelines after 19 minutes, coming back on just before quarter-time in his 357th and final AFL match.

Ablett is chasing a fairytale finish to his career, with Geelong leading Richmond at half-time in Brisbane.

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Ablett hurt, returns in AFL grand final

Geelong superstar Gary Ablett has returned to action in the AFL grand final against Richmond after an early injury scare.

The retiring champion – playing his 357th and final match – hurt his left shoulder in a tackle from Tigers captain Trent Cotchin during an explosive opening five minutes.

Ablett was helped off the Gabba ground by trainers, clearly in pain, and was taken to the change room for medical assessment.

A huge cheer went around the ground when he reappeared on the bench at the 19-minute mark and he came back on before quarter-time.

Moments before Ablett’s injury, Richmond defender Nick Vlastuin was knocked out by an accidental high elbow from Patrick Dangerfield.

The Cats star punched a contested ball and made high contact with Vlastuin in the same action.

Vlastuin lay motionless for several minutes before being taken off the ground on a stretcher.

In a rough and tough opening term, Geelong’s Brandon Parfitt had his thumb checked for injury and Richmond’s Nathan Broad was left groggy by a heavy collision and taken off the ground.

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