Blakey lives his Swans dream

This article first appeared on the NSW Australian Football History Society’s website. Check out the site for more great stories and facts about our game in NSW.


Nick Blakey pretty much grew up in the Swans changerooms.

As a cheeky 11-year-old with a Swans jumper on his back, he ran around and through the legs of the likes of Jarrad McVeigh, Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy and Sam Reid at the SCG, annoying some of the biggest stars of the AFL.

As a precocious 19-year-old, he ran out on Docklands Stadium alongside them as he made his AFL debut.

He had a privileged footy upbringing – dad John was not only a Fitzroy stalwart and dual North Melbourne premiership player, as an assistant coach at the Swans, he gave young Nick and entree to footy few kids get.

“I grew up around the club, all I sort of knew was being around the footy club, every day I could, I’d go in. School holidays, I’d go in with dad. I was very lucky dad was at the club. All I ever knew was footy, all I wanted to do was be a footy player,” Blakey said.

And then when he was 14, Lance Franklin arrived at the club, giving him another idol to annoy.

When Blakey kicked his first goal in that 2019 debut against the Western Bulldogs, Buddy was the first man he saw.

“I remember my first goal, we were 30 points down but I still carried on and jumped straight into Lance’s arms. I look back now and think how lucky I was to have played with someone I idolised,” he said.

Now five seasons and 100 games into his own career, the Lizard has become a cult figure himself and his regular votes in the Carey-Bunton medal reinforced his place as one of the best NSW players in the AFL. Five votes last week before polling went in camera for the final two rounds took him to fourth place on the leaderboard on 29 votes.

Footy was always going to be a major part of his life. But it wasn’t always going to be Sydney.

He was born in Melbourne and at the age of two went to Brisbane where he lived until he was six.

Then it was Sydney, where he’s been ever since and, after signing a seven-year deal this season, he won’t be going anywhere else.


The early years

He started playing footy with East Sydney Auskick and went through the age groups at the club while attending Waverley College. As it became clear he was going to be drafted, North and Brisbane both had father-son options and, while he was prepared to leave town, he desperately wanted to play for Sydney. Luckily for him, the Swans wanted him as well and matched all bids.

“I was just a Swans fan. All I wanted to do was to play for the Swans. Now I get to play for the club I supported growing up, not many get to do that now, so I’m really lucky,” he said.

“It was a bit different to other draftees, I was already really good mates with a lot of them. I basically knew everyone at the club before I got there as a player. It wasn’t so much a new feeling, it was just a feeling of now being part of it.”


Graduating to the big league

And he’s part of a cohort of Sydney kids who grew up together, give or take a few years, and make up a band of locals who make the Swans a team that really represents Sydney.                                                                                              

Blakey, Errol Gulden, Braeden Campbell, Sam Wicks and Marc Sheather are all around the same age and then there’s an older group of Dane Rampe, Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney.

“We’ve all known each other for a long time and grew up playing against and with each other and now we get to play together at the highest level, that’s pretty good,” he said.

And that seven-year deal virtually assures he’ll be a Sydney-raised Swan for life.

“I’d always wanted to play for Sydney so if I could tie myself to the club, it all made sense and I’m stoked about it being long term. I’ve got the security to stay in Sydney, I’m settled in Sydney, I couldn’t see myself moving.”


Nick Blakey of the Allies celebrates a goal during the AFL U18 Championships match between the Allies and South Australia at GMHBA Stadium on June 29, 2018 in Geelong, Australia.