Watch Gary Ablett son Levi run through AFL Grand Final banner with Geelong’s Joel Selwood amid fight with rare disease
Gary Ablett Jr’s son Levi has run through the Geelong banner at the AFL grand final in a beautiful moment with Cats captain Joel Selwood at the MCG.
Levi – the first child of Gary and Jordan Ablett – lives with a rare and degenerative disease that has left the three-year-old without the ability to speak.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Levi Ablett’s touching arrival with Joel Selwood and the Cats.
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Selwood revealed Geelong’s plan for Levi on Friday when he was asked what the team’s run to the grand final would mean for Gary, who retired after losing to Richmond in the 2020 decider.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret: his son is going to run out with me tomorrow, which is pretty special,” Selwood shared.
“I think it’s only fair that an Ablett is performing on grand final day, and it’s Gazza’s turn to cheer on his little son.
“That will be pretty special for the Ablett family, but also the Geelong faithful.”
Before the game Jordan shared an image of Selwood’s No.14 jumper – worn by Levi, complete with an Ablett badge – thanking their friend for the invitation, with Gary reposting the message.
“It’s hard to put into words just how beautiful of a gesture this is but know that our family is beyond grateful for you and your big heart,” Jordan wrote to Selwood.
“You’re a champion off the field just as much as you are on it.
“It’s our absolute joy and honour to send our son out with you today.”
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Levi was in his mum’s arms when Gary bowed out after the Gabba grand final two years ago.
The two-time premiership player suffered a shoulder injury in the first quarter and subsequently underwent surgery.
“My first two shoulder reconstructions were all about getting back onto the footy field,” he wrote after the operation.
“This time it’s all about life post-footy and getting it right to carry and look after our little man.”
While they have declined to share the exact diagnosis, the Abletts have been open about Levi’s condition – including the possibility of a “very short” life expectancy.
Jordan this year said doctors have braced the parents for the possibility that, while there are no guarantees, it is now highly likely Levi will never speak.
But she told the Good Friday Appeal that although Levi is yet to say a single word “his life has been a constant message”.
“It’s really difficult from a practical point of view but also really difficult just being his mum and not being able to hear his voice or know what he needs. When he gets upset, I have to guess what the problem is,” Jordan said.
“Although I will say, despite him not being able to communicate, I do feel as though I’ve really learnt to understand him over the years – I have had to put a lot of confidence in my parenting.
“It’s also difficult because I’d love to just hear his thoughts, have conversation with my boy and for us to know that he understands how much we love him.”
The couple went public with Levi’s situation in 2020 after a photoshoot in March that year first prompted concerns for their son’s development.
“Levi was a few months past his first birthday and while on set it became clear as day that something wasn’t right,” Jordan said in July this year.
“I remember the photographer asking me if Levi could stand/sit and I said no and as we continued taking photos I was thinking ‘this isn’t right’.”
Jordan went on to explain that when she tried to get her son into a standing position “he wouldn’t put any weight through his legs at all”.
“He was super floppy in all positions, had really poor head control and for the most part (if not the entire time) kept his hands clenched tight,” she wrote.
“I still cherish all my photos with my boy, but I must say there is a tinge of sadness and disappointment when I look at some because I don’t understand how things went under the radar for so long.
“Not having had a child before Levi I couldn’t compare and didn’t know what’s typical of a baby and what’s not.”
Gary shared his own message on his son’s third birthday earlier this year.
“Great day today celebrating our little legend who just turned three!” he wrote.
“We love watching you grow and seeing your heart shine in so many ways.
“You’re a beautiful, selfless, joyful young boy who we love more than you could ever know.”
The Abletts welcomed daughter Grace into the world in November 2021.
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