The evolution of Nick Blakey’s career since he was drafted, is nothing short of unique. His transition, from forward, to winger, to defender, has been an area of interest as he now looks firmly settled in the Sydney Swans’ starting 22.
On Sunday night, against the Brisbane Lions, another element was added to the versatile and adaptable game of Nick Blakey.
After Paddy McCartin failed a concussion test against the Hawks in the Monday clash the round prior, forcing him to miss the match against the Lions, lack of height in defence emerged as a potential weakness for the Swans in round 7.
With that in mind, Sydney coach, John Longmire, saw an opportunity to use his speedy, line-breaking, half-back flanker, in Blakey, who happens to be 195cm tall, in a key role, adding further depth to his positional versatility.
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On Sunday, Blakey was often seen positioned deeper than usual and was generally playing on the Lions’ second or third tall forward, supporting mainstays, Tom McCartin and Dane Rampe in the absence of Paddy McCartin.
“Yeah, definitely,” Blakey responded to media about whether he faced a learning curve in his transition to defence.
“Going back to last year, when I was out of the team, that was the first time I started to play defence. Then I came back into the AFL team and strung together some games down back and it’s probably been my most consistent position since playing at the club.
“So, obviously being young, I’m continuously learning and trying to evolve my role down there, whether that’s on smalls, or last week I was playing a bit taller,
“So I think that’s a good thing about my position down there, I can play on tall’s and small’s, and that’s something I’m really enjoying.”
Blakey’s game has gone to a new level in 2022, averaging a career high’s in disposals (20.14, previous best being 12.53), marks (5.14, previous best being 3.82) and inside 50’s (3, previous best being 2.76). Blakey’s kicking efficiency has also improved to 71.3% this season with his previous best season being 62.1% in 2019.
Starting his career as a deep forward, Blakey has slowly moved up the field, playing on the wing, off half-back and now as a key back. He also spent stints in the ruck during his experimental period last season, meaning that he’s officially played everywhere.
Blakey is likely to resume the regular role he’s played this season, with more freedom slightly higher up the field with Paddy McCartin expected to return to the lineup against the Gold Coast Suns on Saturday.
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