Blakey and Walker fly to USA with AFL Academy
AFL NSW/ACT Allies players, Nick Blakey and Matthew Walker will spend the next two weeks with fellow Level 2 NAB AFL Academy members in the United States.
Flying out of Australia on Saturday, the QBE Sydney Swans and GWS GIANTS Academy players will take part in a 12-day high performance training camp based at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida and the UCLA in Los Angeles, alongside 30 of the best Under 18s players from around the country.
As well as training and development sessions, the players will be led across the trip by coaches and mentors, Luke Power, Brent Harvey and Brad Johnson, as well as visit NFL club the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Away from the track, players will also get some down time, enjoying the spoils of Los Angeles, visiting Disneyland and taking in an LA Lakers NBA match.
Blakey, son of former Fitzroy and North Melbourne legend John Blakey, will be eligible for the 2018 NAB AFL Draft. Brisbane and North Melbourne will both have access to the young-gun via the father-son rule, as will the Sydney Swans, with Blakey having spent several years in their Academy.
The 194cm utility says the trip is designed to imitate a week in the life of a professional AFL player.
“I think the the trip is based around an AFL club week and an AFL club life,” says Blakey.
“Constantly in an elite environment where everything you’re doing is being judged – you’ve got to be on your toes. This is something that is getting us ready for – hopefully – next year, when boys end up on an AFL list.”
The IMG Academy, where the players will spend much of their time, is world renowned for the development of elite athletes with a focus on responsibility, leadership and determination. Athletes that have attended the Academy include tennis player, Maria Sharapova and NFL superstar, Eli Manning.
The NAB AFL Academy, of which the players are a part of, is key component of the NAB AFL Rising Stars Program, which supports grassroots players and football communities, and helps young Australians fulfill their dream of playing in the AFL.
While excited to push his skills to a new level, Blakey says he is also looking forward to bonding with his fellow Academy teammates on this trip of a lifetime.
“I’m expecting to get heaps out of the trip, it is something I’ve been looking forward to for awhile now. The fact that I get to go overseas with 30 of my best mates, doing what I love doing – I don’t think it can get much better than that.
“The calibre of coaches that we have coming on the trip, taking time away from there family to do everything they can to feed us with their knowledge for our benefit, it’s incredible.
“All the boys get a massive buzz when we see people like Brent Harvey, the games record holder, working with us, letting us pick his brain to try and learn as much as possible.”
Personally for Blakey, 2018 brings a challenge, returning from a back injury, which saw him miss the final match of the 2017 Allies season.
“My training has been going great. It was obviously frustrating last season with my injuries, but that’s something I’ve put behind me and I’m feeling the best I’ve felt for a while.
Being a part of the Sydney Swans Academy, Blakey has been fortunate enough to spend his pre-season with the Swans, training alongside the main group prior to Christmas, as a part of the NAB AFL Academy club placement.
“Club week at the Swans was amazing. All the boys got around me and really steered me in the right direction. It has made me so much hungrier to achieve my dream of playing AFL.”
Blakey will again be a part of the Sydney Swans Academy team, which will contend in the 2018 NAB AFL Academy Series. Going undefeated in the 2017 season, Blakey is hoping the team can replicate their successful year.
“I can’t wait for the 2018 season to start. Personally, it can’t come fast enough.
“Nationals with the Swans is going to be great fun, and hopefully I can put together strong performances in those games.
“Based on form, if I get selected in the Allies squad, then I’ll hopefully play in the Under 18s Championships. All I can do this year is put my best foot forward and let my football do the talking.
“A lot can happen in a year and I can’t wait to get started and have a red hot crack.”