Blakeys to help shape Swans-Roos AFL clash

Roger Vaughan |

John and Nick Blakey will be a family sub-plot when Sydney and North Melbourne try to rebound from AFL losses at the SCG.

John Blakey, a two-time premiership player for North, spent several years as a highly-rated assistant coach at the Swans before returning to Arden St last year.

His son Nick has flourished at Sydney since moving to defence last season, impressing with his intercept marking and ability to counter-attack.

Kangaroos coach David Noble said John’s knowledge of the Swans had been invaluable as they prepare for Saturday’s clash, in the wake of a 108-point hammering from Brisbane.

“His connection previously with Sydney has given us an insight into the way and the manner they go about it,” Noble said.

“I’m really impressed with what John Longmire has done up there with that group in the last 18 months.

“We’ve got to be on our mettle, they pride themselves on that contested possession, their one-on-one battles.

“We couldn’t ask for a better challenge this week, really, could we – coming out of last week, to go to Sydney and take on a team that plays in that manner.”

The Swans also have some work to do, having only managed one goal in the first half last as they went down to the Western Bulldogs.

Fellow Sydney defender Jake Lloyd has been impressed with what Nick Blakey has brought to the Swans backline since his shift down back.

“He’s a real character, the Lizard,” Lloyd said.

“The start of last year, he had a few challenges with his consistency. Obviously the way he went about it, training-wise … (he) really turned that around mid-year and made a move down back.

“He’s quite a tall fella – he’s probably six-two, six-three – so he has that ability to come across and intercept. Obviously his speed is a real standout for him.

“It adds another dimension for us going forward – opposition teams have to worry about his speed and the way he can use the footy off half-back.”

The magnitude of North’s loss to Brisbane and the tough challenge of Sydney at home make this a litmus test for the young Kangaroos side.

Noble said during the week he fully understands the impatience of their fans, but added it will take time for the team to develop.

He knows all about building teams, having been football manager at Brisbane when they finished bottom and working with coach Chris Fagan before taking over at Arden St.

But for all that, Noble also made it clear that effort is non-negotiable.

“It gives you some guidance, it gives you some reality as to where things are actually at – average games, average age of different groups,” he said of working previously at Brisbane and Adelaide.

“It puts things into perspective, but that doesn’t step away from the fact that you have to turn up and compete and put the right level of effort into your game.”