Blakely Pumped To Return For Swans Against Royals

Friday, July 13, 2018 - 11:57 AM by Chris Pike

SWAN Districts ruckman Nathan Blakely is pumped to be returning this Saturday against an East Perth team he has strong family links to as he looks to rediscover the form he was in prior to a hamstring injury.

Blakely has returned to Swan Districts in 2018 and was having a tremendous season up until injuring a hamstring in Round 10 against Claremont at Claremont Oval.

Up until that point, he had been averaging 16.8 possessions and 23.9 hit outs a game and his combination with Corey Gault was the best in the competition in regards to what they were producing as a ruck and key forward duo.

Before his hamstring injury, Swans' season was going well too with the black-and-whites holding a 5-3 record prior to losing that game to Claremont in which he got injured.

Swans have gone on to lose against Subiaco, Peel Thunder and Perth since as well and even though they remain in fourth position, that could change with a loss to East Perth at Steel Blue Oval on Saturday.

Blakely can't wait to get back out there and to try and help Swans get their first win since he played a key role in the 13-point win against East Perth at Leederville Oval back in Round 8.

"In the middle of any season you want to be out there playing giving it your best shot and I guess last time I came off the ground with the boys after a game it was after a win against East Perth and we were going quite well," Blakely told 91.3 SportFM.

"We had Claremont the next week and we were full of confidence, but a month of footy can change your direction. Although we haven’t moved on the ladder at all in that month, we are still fourth, we have lost four games in-a-row and aren’t looking too good. We are needing a big change for the rest of the year."

With both teams needing a win as they battle over a finals potion and with Swans and the Royals both on losing streaks, there is plenty on the line.

But Blakely also has a strong family connection to East Perth while Swans will field a team featuring ex-Royals Freddie Clutterbuck, Steven Payne and Jackson Slater.

"Dad was a 54-game player at East Perth and my grandad is a life member at East Perth. On the phone the other day, grandad actually said he was going to come to the game but he might wear East Perth under the jacket," he said.

"Then we have some East Perth players in our team too. I guess that's a choice they had as a club and by going in that direction they've lost people like Freddie, Stevie and Jackson Slater.

"That's probably why they've gone back on that decision because of their history and culture, and in the next couple of years they'll be a standalone club again."

Blakely has returned to Swan Districts to lead the ruck in 2018 on the back of taking a year away from the game in 2017 on the back of rupturing the ACL in his knee at the opening bounce of the 2016 season.

He wasn’t sure how his comeback would go, but he did want to give it a try and he has been pleasantly surprised with how well he has performed at least up until the hamstring injury.

"It was just about making small gains at the start and you are just happy to get through a game. Then you do a bit more and more until you are trying to get 20 touches with a goal or something every week," Blakely said.

"I think personally I've probably had my best season but with time you don't know how time is going to heal wounds and develop your skills, but I guess over those two years I became a bit more coordinated which might sound surprising to some.

"I've just gone along and kept ticking boxes by training. When I was 15, I was one of the shortest on the field and couldn’t get a kick but you never know what time does and I had a growth spurt.

"I didn’t know what affect the last couple of years would have, but I've kept training in that time and I think if I hadn’t had this little hammy I would have played a few more games. But hopefully I can get back on the track to see the year out, make a big contribution and we can have a big home final at Bassendean to look forward to."

Going back to 2017, Corey Gault had a standout season in the ruck for Swan Districts winning the Swan Medal as the club's fairest and best along with being named the ruckman in the WAFL Team of the Year.

But with the loss of Ricky Cary coming into 2018, Swans needed a tall option up forward and that's where Gault has been able to deliver while Blakely was holding down the ruck.

That combination was working a treat prior to Blakely's injury and now he is looking forward to getting it back up and running starting this Saturday.

"We're a bit of Kobe-Shaq or Dwyane Wade-Kobe Bryant combination I think where without one, the other can't survive. But seriously Corey has been amazing this year and you could stick him in as a second ruck/forward in almost any AFL team in the competition right now," he said.

"I dare say that would be looked at by a few AFL clubs come the end of the year given how readymade he is. He has the skills as a small man, he can play ruck, he's gone loose in defence a couple of times when we've had a few surges over the last couple of weeks.

"He is a goalkicking forward too so there's not much more you can ask from him on top of having experience in the AFL system and that he's very professional. He basically ticks every box there is."

Since he did suffer that knee injury at the start of the 2016 season, Blakely has completed his medical studies and begun work as a doctor. He is enjoying that even though the shifts don't work perfectly all the time with being a WAFL footballer.

"I've been out for two years and I base myself at Charlie Gairdner. Depending what job I'm on, shift work can make getting to games hard at times and I've come off a couple of night shots and played some pre-season games which was a bit nerve racking," Blakely said.

"But generally my friends have been a help and I've been able to switch shifts. I'm enjoying the career move, you have to do something outside of the couple of hours of training in the afternoons. I chose medicine and it's served me well so far."