One of Australia’s most famous sporting families is in mourning after the death of AFL champion Gary Ablett Jnr’s sister, Natasha.
Natasha, 35, the daughter of former Geelong star Gary Ablett Snr, had been receiving treatment at a Barwon Health clinic in Geelong and is believed to have died at home in non-suspicious circumstances.
Earlier this week Ablett Jnr, 33, who for months had been pushing to be traded back to Geelong from the Gold Coast where he had captained the team for six years, revealed he needed to be around his family.
“Sixteen years on, now married and looking to start a family, my priorities have shifted. I need to be around my family back home, who I have spent the last seven years doing long distance with,” he wrote on his website Exclusive Insight.
“My sisters, my brother, and parents all play a huge role in my life, and it’s time that I make myself more available to them and others back home,” he wrote in an open letter headlined A Letter to the Game.
He said only a few people knew the reasons why he was requesting a trade back to the Geelong Football Club.
“A lot of people are likely to be making assumptions about why I made this decision; however, only a few people know the reasons why.
“As grateful as I am for my career and everything that has come with it, having it consume most of my life has meant that other areas have had to take a back seat during that time,” he said.
Former Geelong Football club president Frank Costa told The Herald Sun that Natasha’s passing would only increase the Brownlow medallist’s desire to return.
“This will make Gary Jnr all the more determined to come home. His sister wasn’t well and that was one of the reasons he wanted to come back.
“It’s absolutely horrible but I think the family will pull together. This poor girl carried a terrible burden for most of her life. She had been pretty crook for a while.’’
His sister Alisha Ablett paid tribute to her sibling in a heartfelt Instagram post on Friday, saying growing up with Natasha and their brothers, Gary and Nathan, was the “Worlds [sic] best gift”.
“Natasha – you were the strongest women I’ve ever known with an absolute heart of gold! 1982-2017,” she wrote.
A post shared by Alisha Ablett (@alisha.ablett) on
On Saturday afternoon, the Gold Coast Suns posted on Twitter: “Our thoughts are with the Ablett family at this difficult time.”
A Victoria Police spokesman said authorities were called to a Norlane home about 9.50pm on Thursday.
“Emergency crews arrived and tried to revive the woman but were unsuccessful,” he said.
“The woman’s death is not being treated as suspicious and police will prepare a report for the Coroner.”
Barwon Health issued a statement on Friday evening.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this tragic time, and we are meeting with them to provide whatever supports they require.
“We have commissioned an external review to determine the circumstances surrounding this tragic event.”
Ablett Jnr said that although he was requesting his time at the Gold Coast Suns to come to an end, he said “there is absolutely nothing that I would have done differently”.
“I am at a stage in my career where I need to get the balance right between footy and life outside of football, and the recent break period has allowed me the time that I needed to put certain things in place.
“To my family back home, although my move interstate has been difficult at times, you’ve done nothing but support me and want the very best for me. I’m grateful to have you as my family, and I love and appreciate each one of you,” he said.