K rock Football

Ryan returns home to Burdoo

Ryan Abbott in action for Geelong in 2019. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

GROVEDALE has landed what may prove to be the most significant recruiting blow ahead of the 2021 GFL season following the return of Ryan Abbott.

The Tigers finalised the signing of the 200cm former Geelong and St Kilda ruckman, who played six AFL matches across three seasons at the Cats and one at the Saints, on Wednesday night.

“It’s massive for our footy club to get a guy straight out of the AFL system coming back to play GFL, coming back to at his home club,” coach Daniel Fraser told krockfootball.com.au.

“To have a bloke, not just of his playing ability but his off-field demeanour, is just fantastic.”

A talented junior basketballer, who represented the Geelong Supercats at under-23 level, Abbott made his GFL senior debut in 2012. He went on to become one of the leading ruckmen in the competition during 88 matches.

Abbott’s form, which included helping Grovedale to its only GFL grand final appearance in 2013, and an audacious run to a preliminary final in 2016, didn’t go unnoticed at Geelong.

He was a member of the GFL Team of the Year and claimed the Tigers’ best-and-fairest in both 2015 and 2016.

The 29-year-old spent 2016 on the Cats VFL list, and while he only played four games, he did enough for Geelong to use the 69th pick in that year’s National Draft on him.

Abbott failed to play a match in 2017 but managed four appearances in 2018, including kicking two goals on debut against Richmond and playing in the elimination final loss to Melbourne.

However, he was only selected one more time at AFL level by Geelong before requesting a trade to St Kilda at the end of 2019.

Abbott played one AFL match for the Saints this year before deciding to step away from the elite level in September.

“A couple of our members stayed in touch with Ryan throughout his AFL career, and when we heard he was delisted we made contact with him,” Fraser said.

“He said he needed a bit of a break after being the hub and that he’d be in contact.

“True to his word, a couple of weeks later, he made contact with us, and we were able to catch up with him, and it’s proceeded from there.”

Ryan Abbott battles former Geelong teammate Darcy Fort during a clash between Grovedale and South Barwon in 2014. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Vicki King)

Abbott’s signature is also a vote of confidence for Fraser, who was appointed as Simon Riddoch’s replacement in September 2009.

“Something we pitched to him is that our pillars are really strong now; we’ve stabilised everything around our footy club,” Fraser said.

“We’ve said that we’re in the long-term and that it’s probably a three-year plan.

“But getting a guy of his calibre to jump on board and be part of those plans, it’s probably sped the process up for us a little bit.

“And it probably tells us that, being able to sit down with Ryan and explain our plans to him, that he sees the picture as well.”

Fraser said the return of Abbott as a one-pointer would give Grovedale plenty of flexibility as it looks to strengthen its list further.

“We’re still looking for a key forward and a key defender,” he said. “The recruitment of Ryan won’t affect those plans.

“If we can pull a key forward and a key defender – and we’re talking to quite a few at the moment – that will really help us move up the ladder with our young group.”

Twitter: @tom_king79