When St Kilda called a meeting to inform its playing group about Blake Acres’ Rising Star nomination on Monday, there was a pressumption he would be present.
But according to a Saints’ inside midfielder and Acres’ close friend Luke Dunstan the scenario played out a little differently than expected.
“I actually found out about his Rising Star nomination before him. We had a meeting called by the club to tell all the players, including Blake, about the nomination but he actually had a massage booked in at that time,” Dunstan told Aflplayers.com.au.
“So he was in the massage room when [General Manager of Football Performance] Jaimie Cox announced it to the group and didn’t realise he wasn’t there, so he had to quickly find and tell him after that, which was quite funny.”
Much like his Round 6 nomination, Acres’ AFL career has had a few setbacks in its infancy.
Injuries to his foot, ankle, quadriceps and hand during his first two years in the system limited the medium-sized utility to just 10 AFL matches before managing a full pre-season leading into 2016.
Beginning the year in St Kilda’s Round 1 team, Acres was omitted twice in the first month of the season before putting in a breakout performance in last week’s win over Melbourne, collecting 28 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and kicking two goals – all career highs.
Dunstan – who was selected one pick before Acres in the 2013 national draft – said the 20-year-old had shown resilience during his AFL career and was finally being rewarded for his efforts.
“It’s been tough for him going in and out of the side especially with the other guys in his draft playing some consistent footy,” Dunstan said. ”So he’s sort of had it tough in his first couple of years but it’s great to see him finally have a breakout game and hopefully he can cement his spot now.
“Nothing fazes him and when the going gets tough, he’s always one to stay positive, and sometimes he can help you see the lighter side of certain situations which can be a positive.
“He’s the sort of guy who’s really laid back and if you know him closely, you’ll know that nothing really fazes him, he’s pretty relaxed.
“During his first couple of years that’s definitely help him – he’s a lot more resilient. When he gets challenged, he finds a way to respond which is another great trait that he has.
“I couldn’t be happier for him. It’s great to see him rewarded for all the hard work he’s put in.”
— luke dunstan (@lukedunstan2) May 2, 2016
Dunstan and Acres lived together with a host family after moving from interstate when drafted by the Saints.
Selected with picks 18 and 19 by the club – two picks that were traded from Hawthorn along with Shane Savage for Ben McEvoy and picks 24 (Billy Hartung) and 59 (Jonathan Ceglar – rookie elevation) – the duo have an interesting friendship stemming from the moment they met.
“I remember being a bit nervous moving over to Melbourne the day after I was drafted and the night we got there our families stayed in the same hotel. I think he had a bit of a different upbringing than me and I remember finding him a little bit weird but the more I got to know him, the more I worked out that it was just him. He’s a funny guy and we’re good mates now.
“He’s a hard one to describe because he is a bit of a character. Sometimes we have a love/hate relationship because he’s a bit of a peanut and is hard to argue with because he’s dumb.
“We also played a game in the under 18s against each other that we’ve had plenty of discussions about. I think he ended up with seven possessions that day so I’ve always ripped into him about the fact that we won the championships against them and Blake had seven touches and ended up with a sore shoulder.”
Acres is St Kilda’s 24th Rising Star nominee since the award’s inception in 1993 and the fourth Saint to be nominated since the start of 2014.
St Kilda have had two winners of the award: Justin Koschitzke (2001) and Nick Riewoldt (2002).