Gary Ablett in action against Essendon. Picture: Michael Klein
Gary Ablett in action against Essendon. Picture: Michael Klein

Position problem hurting Gaz, Cats

WHAT to do with Gary Ablett?

Play him in the midfield? High half-forward? Have him running off the back of the square occasionally? Have him play a fill-in role in the forward half until all the troops return?

The numbers suggest it's a decision yet to be decided by Geelong coach Chris Scott.

Ablett, who turned 34 last week, arrived back at the club declaring he wanted to be a midfielder.

His declaration was spot on tin the first three rounds, when he played about 80 per cent of the time on the ball.


His season was a disrupted through Rounds 4-7 with a hamstring injury and then Scott clearly had a change of thinking.

After returning from injury, Ablett has been deployed to the forward line with mixed results.

That's what the Cats are delivering as a team, mind you. They are in eighth position with a 5-4 record, a game and percentage from third spot and a game and percentage above 13th.

The loss to Essendon was as smack in the face, but similar to most clubs in that third to 13th bracket, they are still devising and delving into what is their best set-up.

Gary Ablett picks himself up.
Gary Ablett picks himself up.

Back to Ablett.

In Rounds 8-9, according to Champion Data, Ablett played about 20 per cent midfield and about 80 per cent forward.

Against Essendon and Collingwood, he attended just three centre-square bounces as opposed to 59 in the first three weeks of the season.

His role has certainly changed.

Commentator Gary Lyon said Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood in the Geelong midfield wasn't the right mix.

Selwood is a 100 per cent midfielder, Dangerfield is 50-50 midfield/forward and, as we saw against Essendon, Ablett was mainly forward.

"Their midfield mix was Dangerfield, Selwood and Ablett was playing as the high half-forward coming off the back of the square, I don't know whether you can have those three," Lyon said.

"That's where Scott Selwood not playing makes a difference, because you've got to change that dynamic up, especially when you've conceded two or three goals.

"Halfway through the second quarter they took (Joel) Selwood out of the centre square and Dangerfield went to full-forward because the mix wasn't right.

"The symbolism of the three in there together is fantastic, maybe the reality of it is it doesn't work.''

Geelong’s star midfield trio, Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett.
Geelong’s star midfield trio, Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett.

It's chasing that balance which is the challenge for Scott.

Tagger Scott Selwood will return to the midfield mix, but how that affects Ablett's minutes is unknown.

His former coach Rodney Eade said he believed Ablett was trying to find confidence in his body.

"He played safe on the weekend," Eade said.

"He didn't play a contested game and he didn't tackle. I think he'll build and he'll play, he's got a lot of pride, better next week.''

No player has more credits in the bank than Ablett but no player has father time as a bestie, either.

The issues really starts when the negatives start outweighing the positives and it's why Ablett has to be an offensive threat to compensate for his lack of defence. He wasn't on Saturday.

Perhaps the return of front-half pressure players such as Brandon Parfitt, Lachie Forgarty, Lincoln McCarthy and Nakia Cockatoo will make Gazza's life easier in terms of defending.

For Scott, he has plenty of time to experiment and determine what is Ablett's best position for the team.

If he gets it right, it could be the difference between finishing top four or not.