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Ablett worth 'extra 5k members and two goals'

Marc McGowan  October 21, 2017 12:59 PM

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Gary Ablett's last game for Geelong was the 2010 preliminary final

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LONG-SERVING Geelong chief executive Brian Cook believes superstar Gary Ablett's return could be worth 5000 new members and an extra two goals on the field.

The dual Brownlow medallist and two-time premiership midfielder finally got his wish to make a triumphant Simonds Stadium homecoming after a failed bid last year.

Being closer to family was the chief reason for Ablett's trade request, a situation brought to light in tragic circumstances last week with the death of his older sister, Natasha.

Ablett, 33, played 110 matches for Gold Coast after leaving his beloved Cats on a multi-million-dollar deal at the end of the 2010 season.

He played only 49 of those games in the past four years because of injury, but still won the Suns' best and fairest in 2017 – and Cook said that formline was why he still appealed.

"It won't do us any harm. It's hard to place a figure on what it's going to do to us financially or commercially," Cook told SEN.

"But my real guess is probably an extra 5000 members – that's probably a headline now I said that, but that's what I think. But, importantly, it will be an extra two goals, I reckon.

"The driver of Gary coming back is the fact he's played really good footy over the last five years, and won the best and fairest last year. It's not his age.

"The fact is if he's playing good footy; he has a chance to make an impact and therefore do the things we want to do as a club."

Cook said there were some "anxious" moments as a trade a year in the making was still to be finalised in the hours before the NAB AFL Trade Period deadline.

But it was a unanimous decision to bring Ablett back despite the likes of Steve Johnson, Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright, Andrew Mackie and Tom Lonergan leaving in recent seasons partly to create more opportunity for young players.

Balancing remaining a premiership contender with looking five years in advance, while also staying ahead of the AFL's equalisation measures was a constant battle, Cook said.

"The trick has to be in making sure while you're bringing in the Zac Smiths and the Gary Abletts etc. that you're developing the kids underneath," he said.

"I know that's a simple thing to say, but it's much harder to do. It means you need to have a fantastic coaching staff (and) a really good player leadership group to make sure we're getting the best out of the young kids.

"We had eight debutants last year, which I think was in the top three or four. We just want to make sure a large number of these kids play 100 games.

"It's really trying to identify younger players who can play the Geelong way, but also bringing in through trading some really good senior guys."