Geelong and Gold Coast legend Gary Ablett Jr, widely regarded as one of the greatest players in VFL/AFL history, is coming to Warrnambool on Thursday, February 10 for a special appearance at Deakin University.
The 37-year-old, who played 357 games in a legendary career for the Cats and Suns which included two premierships, two Brownlow Medals, eight All-Australians, five AFLPA MVP awards and a swag of other individual accolades, will interact with fans in a special evening with the retired superstar that will kick off at 6:30pm.
The man known affectionately as 'The Little Master', or 'Gaz', told The Standard he can't wait to get to Warrnambool, share some of his own stories and to get to know fans in the football-mad town.
He added that he understands just how much the game means to so many in the regions and wanted to learn more about Warrnambool's rich footballing history.
"When I was playing footy we didn't get enough chances to get out and do this," he said.
"Over the last 18 months it's been difficult with Covid, so any chance to get out and chat to people from the smaller country towns is great. Warrnambool is obviously a big town, but I enjoy connecting with the people.
"It's a chance for me to reflect on my career and everything I've been able to achieve. I'm looking forward to telling some stories, but also hearing some stories.
"I love to know what the game means to everyone else. I've had to postpone a couple of times, but I can't wait to come out this time."
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The AFL legend said that one of the most satisfying parts of visiting regional cities and towns is the vast history and connectivity it has with the game.
"Every kid comes through a junior club. Most clubs have volunteers that dedicate their time so that kids can get out and enjoy their footy, it's something that's always meant a lot to me," he said.
"I obviously followed Geelong with my dad, but the opportunities to come out and watch training, have a kick of the footy and get a photo meant a lot to me.
"I've always remembered that, and through my career I've loved getting out to junior footy clubs, and also do shows like this one coming up and connect with the people."
Ablett Jr will host a live Q&A session with fans from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, with a meet and greet session from 7:30pm to 8:30pm to follow. There is plenty of Ablett Jr memorabilia on display, silent auctions and much more, with the ticket price $60 per person.
Funds raised on the evening will go to Ablett Jr's charity, Active Faith. It is a charity that he is incredibly passionate about and one that he hopes can make a significant difference.
"We launched about 12 months ago, and we do a lot of international aid work," he said.
"We teamed up with the charities that work on the ground like World Vision and the Gateway Children's Fund which does a lot of work in PNG, and then we fund projects from anything to building a water well, a toilet block, and we raise the funds for those projects.
"We're in the process of building our website, and I'm incredibly passionate about it."
With the 357-game legend content in retirement after finishing up his stellar career after the 2020 AFL Grand Final, at this stage he has no plans to make a return to the field.
"I have been asked this many times, not at this stage," he said with a chuckle.
"The last 14 to 16 months has been about family for me, but also getting my shoulder right as well.
"I obviously had the shoulder reconstruction and once that's feeling strong, who knows, but at this stage the answer is probably no."
The event on February 10 will be run in accordance with the latest Victorian Government guidelines and Covid-19 safe practices.
To purchase tickets, head to www.eventbrite.com.au/e/a-night-with-gary-ablett-jnr-in-warrnambool-tickets-156611616561
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