Gary Ablett Sr, one of the greatest players in history, is taking the AFL and the Geelong and Hawthorn clubs to court by claiming a breach of duty and negligence as he struggles with life after football.
The 61-year-old, who became an all-time great during a 248-game career which included 1031 goals from 1982-96, claims he is unable to work due to the brain damage suffered on the playing field.
Ablett’s lawyer, Michel Margalit, told The Age that his degenerative condition was “clearly as a result of physical trauma caused by concussion”.
She also said the AFL Players’ Association had denied financial assistance to Ablett.
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“One of the biggest challenges for Gary is he very much is left without the means and ability to fund the care he now requires, given his condition,” Margalit told The Age.
“He really struggles on a daily basis, and it is very typical symptomatology you see from players, or athletes, who suffer these concussion-related injuries around the world. There is everything from memory loss to being unable to work and many other symptoms.”
Ablett is seeking damages and costs but a full statement of claim has yet to be served to the AFL, Cats and Hawks.
The Geelong icon is the highest-profile former AFL player to reveal his health issues in relation to on-field concussion, now a major issue in world sport.
Fellow former Cats player Max Rooke is the lead plaintiff in a class action also launched by Maralit Injury Lawyers involving former players against the AFL, seeking up to $1 billion in compensation.
Ablett last month detailed a diagnosis of brain damage and said he had contacted his former manager, Peter Jess, who has become a prominent advocate for ex-AFL players over the concussion issue.
“I started getting symptoms that alarmed me to the point where I contacted Peter Jess, whom I’m aware has been a concussion advocate for a number of past players,” Ablett told NewsCorp.
“I told him of my concerns and Peter helped organise an MEG scan that American Military use. It showed I have significant structural and functional brain damage.
“Obviously I was a very physical player and while I only got totally knocked out eight-10 times, I experienced being semi-concussed, such as ears ringing and out of it for a few minutes many dozens of times.
“But because you weren’t knocked completely out you wouldn’t even bother mentioning it.”
Previously, Ablett also has admitted to illicit drug use when he was younger.
The AFL last month released a statement saying it had made more than 30 changes to concussion protocols, tribunal guidelines and on-field rules to protect players’ heads.
It also released a strategic plan for sport-related concussion in Australian football.
Caminiti, Merrett to front tribunal
St Kilda sensation Anthony Caminiti will be at the mercy of the AFL tribunal as he prepares to face a lengthy ban for his off-the-ball hit that concussed Collingwood’s Nathan Murphy.
The tribunal is set for a potentially bumper night with Essendon skipper Zach Merrett to fight his one-match ban in a bid to play the Anzac Day blockbuster against Collingwood.
Collingwood vice-captain Taylor Adams and GWS gun Tom Green could also be involved if they decide to challenge their one-match suspensions for dangerous tackles on St Kilda’s Seb Ross and Hawthorn’s Josh Ward respectively.
The AFL is set to push for a ban of at least four weeks for first-year forward Caminiti after match review officer Michael Christian assessed his striking charge on Murphy as intentional conduct, severe impact and high contact.
The grading triggers an automatic tribunal hearing.
Vision shows Murphy forcefully pushing Caminiti in the chest during the final quarter and the Saints forward responding with a raised forearm that felled his opponent.
Murphy, who later had words with the Saints contingent on the boundary line, will miss the April 25 clash with Essendon as a result of his concussion.
Merrett elected to challenge his one-match ban for rough conduct over a dangerous tackle on Melbourne’s Tom Sparrow.
The tackle was graded as careless conduct, medium impact and high contact, as were Green and Adams’ respective incidents.
Dangerous tackles have come under scrutiny early in the season.
Last week, Hawthorn midfielder Will Day (two matches) and Geelong forward Gary Rohan (one match) tried and failed to challenge respective bans at the tribunal.
Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew and Sydney counterpart John Longmire said they’d told their players to refrain from taking their opponent to ground in tackles.
“It’s almost at that point, isn’t it, that if you choose to take a player to ground, if they hit their head, you’re putting yourself at risk,” Dew told Fox Footy.
“Which I think, by the way, is the right way to go, I think we need to protect the head as much as possible.
“So I think we do need to adjust our coaching, and there’s far too many (dangerous tackles) in the first five rounds.”
Longmire added he’d been part of an AFL forum several years ago where dangerous tackles were addressed.
“It was pretty clear from a coaching perspective, what we can do is tell our players in those situations when you can, is not take them to ground,” he said.