Gary Ablett has put his hand into his own pocket, forgoing a six-figure sum of money due to him from the Gold Coast in order to accommodate the Suns and his own wish to end his playing career with Geelong.
In a bid to push through a complex deal with the Cats, Ablett and his manager Liam Pickering told Gold Coast bosses several weeks ago that the champion player would ensure the Suns be repaid the estimated $300,000 from his front-ended contract.
The Ablett camp indicated that because the dual Brownlow medallist was walking out on the final year of that contract, the money due to the Suns would be repaid even if it meant Ablett waiving a big chunk of his Geelong wage next season. The prevailing view is that the Cats and Ablett will together compensate the Suns.
Put simply, were Darcy Lang, for example, to agree to be traded to the Gold Coast, Ablett would take a significant pay cut next season for that money to be forwarded to Lang.
Even before the death late last week of Ablett’s elder sister Natasha, Pickering had made it clear to Geelong and Gold Coast that the player was prepared to relinquish a significant amount of money to ensure his return to Simonds Stadium. Gold Coast asked the question of the Ablett camp at the end of September.
While the Cats have struggled to identify a player prepared to move to the Gold Coast to effect a trade and help solve the financial repayment, Lang remains in the mix. The Suns’ new coach Stuart Dew spoke with the 21-year-old from Colac on Tuesday in a meeting that buoyed the club’s hope of an Ablett deal.
Ablett was also contracted to the AFL for next season as an ambassador at the expansion club. He has also indicated to the Cats he is prepared to relinquish that wage if Geelong cannot compensate it. This would ensure the AFL could potentially target another Gold Coast player using the money earmarked for Ablett.
Last month AFL chief Gillon McLachlan indicated the league would be prepared to help fund co-captain Tom Lynch in a bid to retain him at the struggling Suns. The AFL has also come under scrutiny for awarding the Cats an unusually high compensation pick (19) for Steven Motlop. Ultimately the Gold Coast would accept that pick for Ablett if a trade cannot be achieved.
Although both Geelong and Gold Coast have insisted the Abletts’ recent family tragedy would not impact upon negotiations, the sad circumstances that have befallen the 33-year-old now mean that both parties will ensure his return to Geelong.
The complexities behind the deal include the fact of Ablett’s heavily front-ended contract with the Suns, worth about $2.5 million over three years, which led to Ablett earning about $2 million of that amount over 2016 and 2017. Added to that was his ambassadorial wage paid by the AFL, which Geelong was not prepared to cover in 2018.
While all parties are now clear that Ablett is prepared to take a major financial hit to return home, Gold Coast are still striving to achieve a deal that involves a player – a deal that would have Geelong contributing about $300,000 of that player’s wage over the coming seasons, with a big part of that money contributed by Ablett.