Sydney Swans coach John Longmire has backed exciting prospect Nick Blakey to continue to thrive in his move up the field.
While the QBE Sydney Swans Academy product played primarily as a key forward in his debut 2019 campaign, he also got a taste of midfield action – and Longmire loved what he saw.
“We’ll play him a bit, as we did towards the end of last season, through the midfield. He’ll play in the midfield and forward line and use his kicking and running ability,” Longmire told SEN.
“We played a game against the Kangaroos last year and our key forwards were Blakey and (Tom) McCartin, just 18 and 19 – and it was great to see how they competed. They just love the contest. We think those two will be able to develop a strong relationship on the field and, as I mentioned, Nick will keep playing some minutes in the midfield.”
Blakey was outstanding from the get-go in 2019, bursting on to a loose ball inside 50 in Sydney’s season-opening clash with the Western Bulldogs and slotting his first career goal in stylish fashion.
The Swans’ first-round 2018 AFL Draft pick then shone in the final quarter of Sydney’s clash with Hawthorn in Round 14, booting two goals and flying high for a Mark of the Year contender.
His brilliant cameo earned him the Round 14 AFL Rising Star nomination and put him in the running for the Ron Evans Medal alongside Sam Walsh, Connor Rozee, Sydney Stack and a long list of other young guns.
Blakey finished the season with 19 goals from 21 AFL games on his way to winning the Swans’ 2019 Rising Star award, placing his name on an honours list with Adam Goodes, Ryan O’Keefe, Kieren Jack and a host of other champion footballers.
Blakey is among a number of emerging Swans tackling minutes in the midfield during the pre-season, with names like Oliver Florent, James Bell, James Rowbottom, Justin McInerney and Dylan Stephens all soaking up time at the stoppages.
Longmire says Blakey – the son of Fitzroy and North Melbourne great and current Sydney assistant coach John – must be monitored closely in his second season at the top level.
“He’s 195 centimetres, he’s lightning-quick, he gets across the ground, he’s a great mark, he’s a beautiful kick and he can run,” Longmire said.
“We’ve just got to keep him sound. He played a full season last year, he got through the season well and we’ve just got to manage that as he goes into his second year. He’s a bit bigger and stronger now, which is a great sign.”