Untold story behind AFL icon’s epic grand final
A bid to return to Hawthorn by Gary Ablett Sr was thwarted by an extraordinary ultimatum from legendary coach Allan Jeans, Hawks champion Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico has revealed.
Reliving the infamous 1989 grand final as Hawthorn and Geelong prepare for their traditional Easter Monday clash, DiPierdomenico told 3AW podcast Footy: Then and Now that Ablett Sr was understood to want out from the Cats before the 1989 season.
Ablett played six games with Hawthorn in 1982 before being cut by Jeans and heading to Geelong, but had pursued reuniting with brother-in-law Michael Tuck at Glenferrie Oval after the Hawks won the 1988 flag.
‘Footy: Then and Now’ is a new weekly podcast that gets you excited for the weekend ahead by revisiting famous VFL/AFL moments with the people who shaped them. Follow/Subscribe on Spotify, Apple, and Google Podcasts
DiPierdomenico, the 1986 Brownlow medallist, this week revealed the deal was close to being done with paperwork underway.
But that’s when Jeans threw an almighty curveball.
“The club went to Jeansie and said ‘have I got some news for you, Gary Ablett wants to come back!’,” Dipper told the podcast.
“And Jeansie said ‘that’s fantastic, but if he does, I won’t coach’. The club had to make the decision.
“So what I’m saying to you… is the fact that Gary Ablett could’ve been playing for Hawthorn in 1989 and Jeansie not coach us, but the club went with the coach and said ‘righto we’ll have you’.”
Instead, Ablett stayed with Geelong and played a starring role in what many regard as the greatest grand final in AFL/VFL history.
The brilliant forward kicked nine goals but it was ultimately futile, with Hawthorn winning by six points in a dramatic and brutal affair.
Among the famous moments, DiPierdomenico played through extraordinary pain after puncturing a lung and breaking ribs in a heavy collision with Ablett.
He opened up about the extent of that injury in Footy: Then and Now this week, revealing the story of the nurse who “saved my life that day”.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!