Classy truth behind iconic AFL photo

 

Richmond stars have been widely praised for the tribute given to Gary Ablett after his Grand Final heartbreak on Saturday night - but only now is the footy world learning how much went into the iconic honour guard.

Ablett, 36, walked into retirement at the Gabba after a nightmare final appearance where he injured his shoulder in the first quarter and tasted the bitterness of defeat on the biggest stage.

While Richmond players were right in the middle of their premiership celebrations following the presentation of the AFL Premiership Cup, the Tigers, led by captain Trent Cotchin, reportedly reached out to Geelong skipper Joel Selwood to provide their support for any plan the Cats had to farewell the superstar.

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The Tigers and Cats created an iconic moment when they established the honour guard for Ablett to walk off the field for the final time flanked by his cheering teammates and adversaries.

 

Geelong's Gary Ablett walks off for the last time.
Geelong's Gary Ablett walks off for the last time.

Footy fans have now pointed out the Tigers' gesture carried an extra touch of class where every player in the line was spotted without their premiership medals around their necks.

In an apparent gesture not to rub their victory in Ablett's face, Tigers stars put away their new medals out of respect to the man affectionately known as the Little Master.

The hidden detail was first spotted by fans on social media group "The Mongrel Punt".

A Facebook post on The Mongrel Punt.
A Facebook post on The Mongrel Punt.

Speaking on AFL 360, Jack Riewoldt revealed the Tigers didn't want to take anything form the legend's final moments on the field as a player.

"I spoke to Danger (after the game) and just said, `look, we'd really like to do this'," Riewoldt revealed.

"To be honest the medal idea came from when Dustin did it in 2017. He didn't wear his Norm Smith around when all of us had our premiership medals on … he didn't want to be the only one out with two medals.

"This isn't a moment for us - we paused our celebrations - this was actually about respecting and honoring a champion of the game.

"I'd hate for Gary to look back on those images and see all of us standing there with the spoils of victory, and take the shine away from what has arguably been the greatest career in AFL history.

"A small gesture but we've had some correspondence with Geelong and they really appreciate it. As Dustin said in his speech, he's one of the greatest players to ever play the game and he deserves the respect. We were happy to give that to him and to send him the love."

There was plenty of class on both sides of the table.

Ablett was hugged by his Geelong teammates as he broke down in tears after his final AFL game.

Even though the retiring star's heart was breaking, he showed plenty of sportsmanship to put his disappointment aside and go up to Tigers captain Trent Cotchin just before a post-match TV interview and congratulate him on leading Richmond to a third flag in four years.

In his post-match speech, Geelong captain Joel Selwood thanked the "little bald bloke" for his contribution to the game, telling Ablett everyone loved him.

 

Wasn’t to be.
Wasn’t to be.

RELATED: Gary Ablett's wife Jordan opens up on family's battles

Channel 7 commentator Bruce McAvaney spoke of the "touching scenes" as the 36-year-old was consoled by wife Jordan and son Levi, before both teams gave him a guard of honour to a standing ovation from the crowd.

The Tigers also showed their respect for Ablett during the game when the entire team refrained from targeting Ablett's injured shoulder when he returned to the field.

With Ablett returning in the first quarter after he needed help walking off the ground to be treated for a shoulder injury, Richmond players had a wide open target to rub out one of the most damaging players on the opposition team.

One hip and shoulder through Ablett would have almost certainly ended his career, after he went down to the dressing room to receive treatment, speculated to be pain-killing injections by Channel 7 commentators.

However, the Tigers never once intentionally went after the Little Master in his state of weakness.

Pure class.

Originally published as Classy truth behind iconic AFL photo