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Blitzing the field

Set to play his 150th game against Hawthorn on Sunday, Mark Blicavs has enjoyed one of the more remarkable football journeys at Geelong. Teammate Harry Taylor reflects on the two-time best and fairest winner’s development, his running exploits and their shared love of quizzes and The Simpsons.

When ‘Blitz’ arrived at Geelong after leaving his athletics career behind him at the end of 2012, I remember thinking that he had a lot of work to do.

I did a bit of one-on-one work with him right at the start to gauge where he was at and get a feel on how much work he needed to do. For a guy that could run a sub three-minute 1km time trial, whenever we did any contest work for a couple of reps he was just absolutely gassed.

It was quite amazing to see how different his fitness levels were compared to most other players, given his non-footy background

He was getting completely lost. His arms were where his legs were and his legs were where his arms were supposed to be and I thought of going back to Wellsy (Geelong recruiter and list manager Stephen Wells) and saying, ‘Gee, Wellsy, we’ve got a lot of work to do here.’

But one thing that really stood out to me even in the early days was Blitz’ desire to want to learn.

He’d be asking questions all the time regarding positioning, technique and anything else that came with footy including diet and sleep. He just wanted to know as much as he could and that want to improve was at as high a level as what I’d seen in my time in football.

His running ability, particularly in his first pre-season leading into the 2013 season, was unparalleled.

We used to have a 2km time trial back when he started. It might have been the first one we did in November and he completed the test in about 5min 20secs and lapped every single player who completed the test.

I wasn’t the greatest runner but I went OK in testing that year but I was was completely shot and fatigued at the end of it. Whereas he was jumping on the spot and talking to us all as though he was ready to do another one. That was what shocked me the most, the ease in which he recovered after such a gut-busting effort.

What is amazing now is that he’s able to run at an elite level and he does it at all at 100kgs.

I’ve worked quite closely with Blitz during his career and especially now that we’re playing together in the backline.

The things we do the most is working on our positioning in one-on-one contests and working on our fundamentals in marking drills.

We’ve tried all sorts of different drills to keep working on reading the ball as early as we can and we’ve done things like paint different colours on the ball, so when you actually mark it you’re focussing on the colour rather than the entire ball. We’ve soaked footballs in water and Vaseline and tried all these different scenarios to help us get better.

Even though we’re different in our personalities, we have similar values that make us close off-field as well.

One thing we love doing is the quizzes in the Herald Sun or The Age and lately we’ve tried to retain that information from the answers so that we then drop it casually into conversation. We’re also right into The Simpsons as well and do our best to quote different scenes when we’re talking to each other.

In one of his first games at AFL level, he ran 17kms for just five touches and ran around in the ruck like a headless chook.

To come from that position to where he is now in taking the best key forward every week and getting the job done, more often than not, that’s a remarkable timeline and that’s what should inspire people.

Don’t just think that you’re handicapped by anything, because Blitz was limited in a number of ways early days but he was able to overcome those things because of his work ethic and that’s the biggest lesson in his amazing story.

Good luck in your 150th Blitz!