Ayres’ regrets over Ablett team curfew call
Gary Ayres says he should have dropped Gary Ablett Sr for the 1996 qualifying final against North Melbourne after the Geelong great broke a team curfew.
Ayres said the playing group pushed for a curfew in the latter part of the 1996 season because they were unhappy with the late-night antics of a number of players.
He told the Herald Sun Sacked podcast he enforced the ruling after the Cats had suffered a 42-point Round 22 loss to Carlton, but admits now it was a mistake.
"The guys had been looking at how we could just make sure the ship was going to stay as upright as it could through the latter part of '96," he said.
"We had hit a little bit of turbulence, we were losing games, and there was a suggestion from the playing group about a curfew.
"OK, you want that, you enforce it. Gazza had been probably not abiding by the curfew but there were other guys, too.
"We had to have a recovery day the day after our last game and anyway I said, 'Anyone late won't play'. Well of course who is late? Gazza.
"That was a real bad rookie mistake. (He was about) 15 or 20 minutes (late), something like that.
Listen to the new episode of Sacked featuring Gary Ayres on Friday
"I went to the leadership group and said, 'This is going to be an issue, in that it is Gary and what we had said'.
"They were very, very good in that he has done the wrong thing, but it is a final, we want to win the final, we are better off with Gazza being in it.
"We played him and unfortunately Gazza didn't play well (1.3), the team didn't play well and we got smashed by North Melbourne.
"I guess that was probably the start of, 'OK, are we going to make a shift to where the culture of the next few years is going to lie.
"It probably started the ball rolling for a lot of the young kids who were going to come through, and then who went on and became premiership players for Geelong and I am talking about players like Steven King, Darren Milburn."
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Ayres said his decision to dump Ablett from the Round 1 team the following year for a similar infraction was the start of a cultural shift that eventually changed the club.
Sadly, Ablett tore his ACL in that 1997 Round 1 VFL game and never played another AFL match.
"Gazza unfortunately stuffed up again on the eve of round 1 (1997) and we obviously decided not to play him in Round 1 against Richmond," Ayres said.
"There were a few people telling me after the game, too, in the old coaches box at the MCG that we would have won if we had Gazza playing and unfortunately that day in the twos he did his ACL."
Ayres and Ablett played junior football in the same team in Drouin and while Ablett played six games for Hawthorn in 1982 he was cleared by renowned disciplinarian Jeans, landing at the Cats for the 1984 season.
Ayres would go on to win five flags at the Hawks while Ablett's premiership dreams went unrequited.
"Alan Jeans was coach at the time but for all the things he could see Gary did well, there fewer other things that aren't in line with potentially the values of the Hawthorn footy club and Gazza found himself out," Ayres said.
Asked if he agreed with the decision, Ayres replied: "Players overlook a lot of things because it's what happens for a game of footy.
"It's amazing who you want to help you win a game but a coach looks at the all-encompassing stuff and has a global approach to footy.
"Gazza missed out on winning those premierships we were lucky enough to win but he went on to be a superstar."
Originally published as Ayres' regrets over Ablett team curfew call