Family ties – Emerging Swan on working with ‘best mate’
John Blakey has always been an important part of his son’s footy journey, but a change of roles this season means he’ll get an even closer look at Nick’s development at Sydney.
John, who played 359 games for Fitzroy and North Melbourne between 1985 and 2002, won two premierships with the Kangaroos and is a member of the club’s Team of the Century, has moved out of the Swans’ development team to take charge of the backline in 2020.
Nick kicked 19 goals from 21 games in an outstanding debut year at Sydney, and he’s set to be an important member of John Longmire’s forward half again this season.
The father-son duo is unlikely to spend too much time together on matchdays, but even with John’s new position and increased input during the week at training, Nick told AFL.com.au that nothing much has changed between them.
“Dad and I have a really good relationship at home and a really good working relationship as well, so if he tells me to do something I’ll do it, just like I do with the other coaches,” he said.
“He’s basically my best mate.
“We’ve never had any conflict about my football and I think Mum has been pretty big on that, when we’re at home we’re a family and don’t talk much about football.
“I know that he’s there though so if I need to I can go straight to Dad.
“People will probably think it’s a bit funny because he’s my Dad but at the end of the day he’s just another coach at the club.
“We muck around sometimes and talk garbage but that’s the same with all the coaches, and when we need to switch on, we do that.”
John has been a long-time assistant coach and development coach at Sydney while his son was working his way through the ranks of the Swans’ Academy.
He told AFL.com.au that his son wasn’t worried in the slightest when he told him he’d be in control of the team’s defence in 2020.
“He was pretty cool with it all, we work separately in our areas at the club, so I give him space and he’s the same,” he said.
A highly rated prospect who had the choice of the Swans (Academy), the Lions and the Roos (father-son) in his draft year, Nick showed plenty to get Sydney fans extremely excited about his future with his 2019 performances.
John said at times he found it tough separating himself from his roles last year.
“It was difficult. I won’t lie, I get pretty excited when he does something well, but I tried not to show it too much because I know the cameras are onto me,” he said.
“I didn’t expect to see him play as many games as he did, so I thought it was a super effort.
“I’m a really proud father and hopefully he can continue on and have a better year this year.”
Nick is expected to mix his time between the forward line and the wing in his second year, but with his speed and brilliant foot skills, he could well be a star off half-back, which could make for an interesting proposition.
“Well if it works, it works,” John said with a laugh.
“I don’t quite see Nick as a backman yet but maybe one day, who knows.”
While his father was a no-nonsense defender with incredible durability and consistency, Nick showed he’s got more than his fair share of flair in 2019, and a swagger to match.
He wasn’t afraid to get in the face of opposition players at times, something that made his father chuckle.
“He plays with some real passion, he loves to win, and he loves the contest, and I think he just gets wound up and gets carried away with his emotion,” he said.
“He only weighs 80kgs wringing wet, so I don’t know what he’s thinking sometimes, but he is really competitive and that drives him to be on the edge a little bit.”