By Terry Wilson
LEAN, mean goalkicking machine Kent Abey will etch his name into QAFL history when he runs out for his 300th game for the Morningside Panthers on Saturday.
In a considerable achievement Abey, now 36, joins a small group to have reached his triple century milestone at state league level when Morningside play Wilston Grange at Jack Esplen Oval on Saturday.
It is fitting that Abey’s milestone will be at Esplen Oval because the tall forward specialist has served the club and venue magnificently since he first linked with the Panthers in 2001.
But the end of the current season will see the departure of the Tasmanian-born Abey, who insists his familiar No.11 jumper will be hung up for good at the end of the season.
“Will I play on? No, I’m pulling stumps at the end of the year,” Abey said.
“I was umming and aahing about retiring last year.”
The popular Panther first donned the red, white and black at the Gabba in Round 1 of the 2001 season. It was against the Brisbane Lions reserves.
“I was only 19 years old and we won by 10 points and I kicked four goals at centre half-forward,” Abey recalled of his QAFL debut.
That was to be the first of 299 great performances by Abey for Morningside as he went on to become a club legend.
How Abey came to be at Morningside was that he was having a look at the Queensland university scene and how better it was compared to that in Launceston.
He went back to Tasmania mid-way through 2001 and played VFL footy with the Tassie Devils for two seasons.
In between those commitments he lined up with North Hobart where he won the Southern Football League premiership in 2003 with current Carlton Brendan Bolton as playing coach.
But then he was back with Morningside where he has remained ever since.
Abey’s former coach John Blair, these days in charge of Aspley in the NEAFL, forged an unbreakable bond with the key forward over a decade.
Blair described Abey as the ultimate clubman and one who could easily have been another James Podsiadly as a mature-age AFL recruit.
“He’s a ripper of a bloke, a great clubman who cares for people,” Blair said.
“He was extremely unlucky in that he was probably born a few years too early.
“After he played in the 2010 grand final he had AFL clubs ringing up about him. But when they found out he was in his 20s they weren’t interested.
“In modern football a guy like Kent could have been the new Podsiadly of the competition.”
(James Podsiadly was listed by Geelong as a 28-year-old rookie in the 2009 AFL draft and subsequently played for Adelaide).
“Kent could have gone anywhere in Australia but he stuck thick at Morningside,” Blair said.
“He’ll leave a very big legacy at the club when he goes.”
Abey broke the Morningside games played record with his 256th game in the preliminary final of 2015, when he passed the previous record-holders Dean Edwards and Nick Tomlinson on 255.
Ever since then he had the rare honour of breaking the games record each time he played.
So what are Abey’s best memories of his time at Esplen Oval?
“The premierships are always a highlight,” he said.
“I played in eight grand finals and won four of them, so of those 2010 was probably the pinnacle of things to play a fairly integral part when we beat Labrador, who had a very good side.
“Beating Labrador again in 2015 was also up there.”
As an adopted Queenslander Abey played a dozen representative matches in the maroon and white, perhaps the most memorable – and painful – coming against Tasmania in Launceston in 2007 when Jason Cotter was coach.
Abey kicked five goals in a winning side that freezing night when the temperature was zero at first bounce.
“That was a painful memory,” Abey recalled. “It was zero degrees and Cotter made us get into an ice bath after the game.”
One of Abey’s biggest regrets was that he never won Morningside’s best and fairest, finishing runner-up three times.
And he never really polled well in the Grogan Medal, not unusual for key position players.
“All the midfielders get the votes,” Abey joked. “They say they are tagged but so do the key forwards. We get tagged every week.”
His hardest opponent was Kurt Niklaus, from Southport, the team he most liked to beat.
“That’s because I had a healthy respect for them,” Abey said.
And what does he think of Morningside’s chances of taking the 2018 QAFL flag?
“We can win it,” he said. “We can, but we’ve been a bit of an enigma to be honest because we’ve beaten all the sides above us apart from Surfers Paradise.”