He was penciled in by most SCer’s as captain week-in and week-out, leaving that decision null and void. What’s more, he lived up to the hype with averages of 132 in 2008, 140 in 2009 and 130 in 2010. The guy is a superstar, of that there is no doubting.
So, with the 2011 season rolling into view, surely the same question hounds every SC coach, especially with Gazza’s new start with the Gold Coast Suns? Well, apparently not. Unbelievably, talk around the water cooler this February seems centred on whether or not Little Gary deserves a place at all in SC teams – or whether, for the first time in many a year, sides can get by without him. The big question is - why?
Obviously the answer is multi-pronged, and I don’t necessarily agree with all of these reasons but nevertheless here they are.
1. The Gold Coast Suns.
Gazza has defected from a superstar Cats lineup to the new franchise, running around with a bunch of kids, with only Nathan Bock and Campbell Brown to look after him. This is a massive move and one that will really test the champion, but he is more than up to the challenge. Will the fact that he has the team on his shoulders really effect his scoring? Only time will tell.
2. He’ll get the best tagger every week now
Like he didn’t already? Despite Geelong stellar midfield, Gazza was the King and the one every team worked their butts off to curtail. He has dealt with the best taggers in the game for the past 3 or 4 years, and has run virtually all of them into the ground. Taggers? Pfft. He eats them for breakfast. No impact for mine.
3. He has lingering groin issues – maybe the onset of osteitis pubis?
Rumours, rumours, rumours. This one is a good one, and the key point is that the Suns have shielded Gazza and questions about his fitness a little in recent weeks, which suggests there might be a little fire where all that smoke is. This was enough to put a bit of doubt into my mind, and I’m sure a lot of other coaches.
4. Dane Swan is better value
The tattooed dynamo from Pieland was awesome in 2010, finishing the season with an average of 127 after averaging 123 in 2009. All this in the team that took out the Premiership and is a solid favourite to win it again this year - whilst this year Gary runs around with a bunch of teenagers. To top it off he is $14,600 cheaper than Gazza. Does that make him a better option? Personal preference I reckon.
5. Can you have team mates Ablett and David Swallow (and perhaps Daniel Harris) in the same midfield?
No 1 draft pick David Swallow is fully expected to slot right into AFL like a duck to water – he finished 4th in the VFL’s Liston Trophy last year and despite his tender age, is by all accounts an absolute gun. In addition, former Kangaroo Daniel Harris is a tantalizing prospect for coaches as well, coming off a great VFL season himself fitter and ready for another crack at AFL level – and VERY cheap. Given these three are all in the Suns midfield (and the two lesser lights are definite cash cows) is Gazza the only one who is replaceable?
6. The Suns have a bye in round one
Make no mistake, this has a huge impact on people thinking of starting with Gazza in their lineup. Everyone wants a victory first up, and to have $630,000 worth of midfielder sitting on your bunch in round one is tough to stomach – especially if your midfield also contains either Swallow or Harris (or both!). Ouch.
So, there you have it - clear as mud huh? The decision is not easy but could be one that impacts on your team for most of 2011. Will Swan (who seems to be everyone’s Gazza replacement) have as productive a year this year as he did in 2010? Will Gazza struggle at his new club without the experienced bodies around him in the Suns midfield to lend a helping hand?
Ablett is a Super Coach Superstar like few other players in the game, and I can’t see that changing…BUT the bye in round one just stabs him in the back in my opinion. He won’t make the starting lineup in my team but, if he plays his cards right, I’m sure that before too long my trade list might just read IN – G. ABLETT.
Gotta love that.