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The Christian Conscience of a Fallen Football Hero

 

Gary Ablett was once one of Australia’s top football players. He was also a prominent born-again Christian.

 

Then, two years ago, a 20-year-old football groupie – half his age – died in his hotel room of a drugs overdose, while Ablett lay on the floor next to her in a drunken stupor.

 

In the midst of the subsequent media frenzy, the football star refused all comment. But his conscience troubled him. Early last year he called the police and said he wished to make a full statement. This he did, at the office of Moore’s Legal, a Melbourne firm of Christian lawyers. The statement has just been released:

 

Gary Ablett: I mean obv-, obviously ever since the incident - the alleged, you know, I - I found it very hard, and it caused me a lot of grief and a lot of pain. And I guess that ever since the hearing - the Coroner's hearing I felt that the issue wasn't resolved properly. Ever since the incident, I intended to - to give, or reveal the facts as things really did happen that night. I received pressure from certain avenues not to give all the facts. But I - I just felt it in my heart to - to reveal the facts as they happened

 

….And you know, it's been something that’s weighed heavily upon my heart, not only since the incident, but especially since the hearing. As a Christian, you know, I feel that it's the right thing for me to do before God is to - to reveal the facts as they happened.

 

Senior Detective Nairn: No worries.

 

Famed South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje, also a Christian, was caught in a massive match-fixing scandal which forced him out of the sport. Before a commission of enquiry he delivered a tearful confession:

 

Words cannot begin to describe the shame, humiliation and pain I feel, in the knowledge that I have afflicted this on others. To my wife, family, and team-mates, in particular, I apologise….I beg the United Cricket Board to reinstate Herschelle [Gibbs]…to the National Squad. Herschelle lied to the UCB, his employer, at my request. Herschelle, forgive me.

 

By contrast, Australian cricket star Shane Warne, banned for a year after being caught last month with a banned drug in his bloodstream, described himself as “the victim of anti-doping hysteria”.

 

It’s reminiscent of Warne’s appearance on Channel Nine’s “A Current Affair” two-and-a-half years ago (on the same day that Hansie Cronje was before the commission of enquiry), after being accused of harassing a British woman with lewd telephone messages. He admitted it – he had little choice – and then made an amazing statement:

 

It was probably the wrong thing to do but I thought it was a private matter, I didn't think it was going to become public and now that it has become public I suppose it's a mistake….If it had have stayed private then it wasn't a mistake.

 

I don’t want to make too much of all this. You don’t have to be a Christian to have a conscience. (C.S. Lewis saw the existence of a conscience - in all people - as evidence for the existence of God.) And Shane Warne’s transgressions are minor compared to those of the two others.

 

But in an increasingly secular world, dominated by the cult of celebrity, it is encouraging to be reminded that some celebrities are prepared to acknowledge their sins and to recognise a higher authority.

 

Gary Ablett was for some years on a demonic downward spiral. Some have questioned his faith. His confession demonstrates without doubt his sincerity. It also shows that he needs our continued prayers.

 
March 3rd, 2003