Nick Davis can recall a young Nick Blakey roaming around the Sydney Swans change rooms after games in the early-mid 2000s.
With his father John taking on the role as the Swans’ forward coach after a 359-game career with Fitzroy and North Melbourne, Blakey’s upbringing was consumed by football.
“Nick’s been in and around the club for the better part of his life,” Davis told AFLPlayers.com.au after Blakey’s Round 14 Rising Star nomination.
“I’ve seen him grow up and join the QBE Swans Academy and grow and develop in that space.”
Davis, who is now working as the Talent ID & Development Manager at the Swans’ Academy, said from a young age Blakey was determined to achieve his dream of being on an AFL list.
Although Blakey has been blessed with his genetic qualities and tall and athletic frame, Davis said it was his work rate and desire to succeed that set him apart from the other members of his draft class.
Being a rugby and rugby league-driven state, AFL often falls behind in NSW but Blakey’s opportunity to join the QBE Swans Academy presented him a chance to develop his skills in an elite environment where he would be challenged against some of the state’s best young talent.
Playing for Sydney in the 2018 Academy Series, Blakey cemented himself as a top draft prospect, finishing runner-up in the Hunter-Harrison Medal (awarded to the best player in Division 2 of the AFL Under-18 Championships).
“There were a couple of games and moments in our Academy series where he had the ability to inject himself into games,” Davis recalls.
“There was one game last year where he came off the bench, stood on some bloke’s head and took a massive mark.”
His marking ability is something Blakey has replicated in the early parts of his AFL career, earning a round 14 Mark of the Year nomination after launching off the back of Hawthorn’s Kaiden Brand.
During Davis’ 168-game career with Collingwood and Sydney, he played against and worked under John Blakey, forming a close bond.
When asked to list the similar traits between Blakey senior and his son, Davis says there are none.
“Apart from Nick’s work rate and determination, they couldn’t be anymore opposite! His mum must be a really good kick of the footy because I don’t think I’ve ever seen Johnny kick a drop punt in his life,” Davis joked.
Despite his athleticism, goal sense and second-to-none determination, the biggest knock on Blakey was his underdeveloped frame.
Throughout his time at the Academy, improving Blakey’s physique was a key focus area for the Swans’ coaching staff.
“We knew that if he was going to play in the AFL at that size, opposition teams wouldn’t let him run around and do what he likes,” Davis explained.
On a personal level, Davis and Blakey worked closely on improving Blakey’s goal-kicking ability to ensure consistency.
Despite Sydney’s season starting slowly, Davis said the learning Blakey would take from his first year would be instrumental for his development into the future.
“Nick is learning how to get through a season of AFL football, how to manage the day-to-day and making sure he can contribute,” Davis said.
“The excitement that those young players, like Nick, will generate will hopefully get Sydney fans excited for the future.”
When asked to sum up Blakey in a sentence, Davis was quick to describe the 195cm forward as a “lizard”.
“Nothing else can be said about him!”
AFL RISING STAR NOMINEES IN 2019
Round 13 – Dylan Clarke (Essendon)
Round 14 – Nick Blakey (Sydney)