The reliable and durable Jason Blake

Jason Blake was picked by St Kilda with the No. 24 selection in the 1999 National Draft and was 189 centimetres tall and weighed 87 kilograms when he was drafted as an 18 year old from Beaumaris and the Prahran Under-18s.  Blake was recruited as a mobile defender, his strengths were his reading of the play and his leap. The profile for Blake in AFL 2000 said “Made the All-Australian team after the AFL National Under-18 Championships and was also named in the TAC Cup team of the year. Also played three games for Melbourne Reserves.”1

Blake commenced the 2000 season in the VFL and made his AFL debut in Round 9 against the Western Bulldogs. Blake had 16 possessions, laid 4 tackles and kicked a goal, despite leading by 31 points at three quarter time St Kilda were outscored six goals to one in the last quarter and lost by a point. Blake remained in the St Kilda AFL side until he was dropped in Round 22 so he could qualify for the VFL finals.  In 2000 Blake had an impressive debut season being used primarily as a defender and played 13 matches averaging 4.8 kicks, 4.9 handballs and 2.7 marks per game.

In the first 16 Rounds of the 2001 season Blake’s form was down on the previous season and he went in and out of the St Kilda side, only playing six games and being named an emergency seven times.  Blake was recalled in Round 17 in a new role as a run with player, he grew in confidence performing this role and went on to play the last six games of the season. In 2001 Blake played 12 matches averaging 4.3 kicks, 5.8 handballs and 3.7 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 77.5%. In Round 19 against Port Adelaide, Blake set new career highs for disposals and marks, having 10 kicks, 12 handballs and taking seven marks, he also laid an equal career best four tackles.

Blake started the 2002 season well, being named in the best players during the Round 1, 24 point victory against Carlton. Jason played the first five games of the AFL season mainly performing run with roles, however he then missed the next 10 weeks of football due to a groin injury. Blake returned through the VFL in Round 16 and although he didn’t play any more football for St Kilda in 2002 he was named as an emergency for three of the final four games of the season. During 2002 Blake played five matches averaging 4.0 kicks, 3.6 handballs and 2.0 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 89.5%.

Blake was dropped after playing in Round 1 2003 and did not return to the St Kilda side until Round 12. Blake was again dropped in Round 13, however he returned in Round 15 to play the last eight games of the season. One of St Kilda’s ruckman Matthew Capuano was controversially delisted mid-season after the Round 9 loss to Collingwood. Trent Knobel came into the side for Round 10 however after injuring his quad he missed the final eight games of the season.

In Round 16 St Kilda split the ruck duties between Blake, 189 centimetres tall and Matt Maguire who was 190 centimetres.  Although Blake and Maguire gave away considerable height they competed hard and created a contest.  St Kilda were beaten in the hit-outs 43-28 however the Saints defeated North Melbourne by five points with full-forward Fraser Gehrig kicking nine goals.

Blake was used in the ruck for four matches up until Round 19 and had 11 possessions and 17 hit outs in the 61 point Round 18 win over the West Coast Eagles at the Telstra Dome. Blake, Maguire and Justin Koschitzke shared the ruck duties to record 39 hit outs to West Coast’s 44 which was led by Dean Cox with 22. Blake had seven hit outs the following week against Richmond and although the Tigers won the hit-outs 40-20 St Kilda recorded an 80 point victory. In 2003 Blake played 10 matches averaging 4.4 kicks, 5.8 handballs, 3.8 marks and 5.1 hit outs per game with a disposal efficiency of 90.2%.

For most of the 2004 season Blake played as a ruckman, although at only 189 centimetres he was considerably shorter than most opposition ruckman he was still able to finish the season with 183 hitouts, ranked 22nd in the AFL.  Trent Knobel was St Kilda’s No. 1 ruckman and at 204 centimetres and he played a contrasting style to Blake, Knobel was a very good tap ruckman but made a limited impact around the ground.  Blake said that his strategy when playing in the ruck was “just to compete and to bash and crash, get in there and try it make it difficult for those taller guys, and try to hurt them on the spread.”2

Blake played the first three games of the 2004 season for St Kilda and then missed the next four matches after injuring his back in Round 3 against Richmond.  After recovering from his back injury Blake came straight back into the St Kilda side in Round 8 but was dropped back to the VFL for Round 11 and 12 as St Kilda used Justin Koschitzke in the ruck. Blake was recalled for Round 13 and played the remaining 13 games of the season including three finals.

In the 51 point Semi Final victory against Sydney at the MCG Blake, playing a run-with role was able to restrict  Brownlow Medalist Adam Goodes to 12 possessions whilst having 13 possessions himself. In 2004 Blake played 19 matches averaging 4.5 kicks, 6.5 handballs, 4.1 marks and 10.4 hit outs per game with a disposal efficiency of 86.6%.

Blake continued to be used predominantly as a back-up ruckman during the 2005 season. Whilst Blake was the shortest ruckman in the AFL his great endurance allowed him to have more impact around the ground than most of his opponents. In 2005 Blake played 15 matches averaging 70 minutes, 4.4 kicks, 6.3 handballs and 2.9 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 87.6%. Blake was ranked 27th in the AFL for total hit-outs with 156.

In the Round 5 2006 1 point loss against Fremantle at Aurora Stadium Blake had, 14 kicks, 11 handballs, 10 marks and kicked two goals. Despite being 22 centimetres shorter than Fremantle’s number 1 ruckman Aaron Sandilands, Blake was one of St Kilda’s best players and had 20 hit-outs. In 2006 Blake played 17 matches averaging 74 minutes, 7.2 kicks, 6.5 handballs and 5.6 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 82.3%.

In Ross Lyon’s first season as coach in 2007 Blake played primarily in the backline, however he also spent time playing in the ruck including two of the last three games of the season. Blake had a career best 21 hit-outs in the final round against Richmond. In 2007 Blake had his first top 10 finish in St Kilda’s best and fairest, finishing ninth. Blake played 22 matches averaging 105 minutes, 5.7 kicks, 6.9 handballs and 4.1 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 82.0%.

During 2008 Blake played 23 matches averaging 109 minutes, 6.6 kicks, 7.6 handballs and 5.4 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 87.6% and was ranked fifth at St Kilda for marks. Jason played most of the season in defense and after being a late withdrawal from the Round 1 match against Sydney due to an infection, Blake did not miss a match for the remainder of the season.

Blake played one of the best matches of his career in Round 16 2008 against Hawthorn to be a catalyst for a great second half fightback. With St Kilda 28 points down at half-time, Blake was thrown into the ruck in the third quarter and turned the game kicking three goals to be St Kilda’s second highest goal scorer for the match behind Nick Riewoldt with six.  Blake also had 23 possessions and 11 hit outs for the match as St Kilda had a memorable 30 point victory.

Blake was the recipient of the 2008 Excellence in Education & Training award in relation to his double degree in Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Construction Management specialization) and Bachelor of Business (Finance Specialization). 

In 2009 Blake played 25 matches averaging 115 minutes, 9.4 kicks, 8.5 handballs and 7.6 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 89.7%. Blake set new highs for minutes, kicks, handballs and marks per game as part of St Kilda’s miserly defense that conceded the least amount of points in a season since the home and away season increased to 22 rounds in 1970.

In Round 17 against the Western Bulldogs Blake had 16 kicks, 15 handballs, took 12 marks and laid 5 tackles to be one of St Kilda’s best players in the 45 point victory. Blake was one of only two Saints along with Farren Ray to play every game in 2009.

During 2009 Blake was ranked first for minutes played at St Kilda and second for marks, playing as a defender he was able to perform roles on tall and small forwards. In 2009 Blake “had the flexibility to play on a number of different opponents including Drew Petrie, Tom Hawkins, Jason Porplyzia and Daniel Motlop. He conceded the fourth most-most goals at the club and kept nine clean sheets.”3

In 2010 Blake has played all 19 matches and is averaging 95% game time, 8.9 kicks, 7.7 handballs and 7.2 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 89.7%. Throughout the 2010 season Blake usually picked up an opposition key forward with his opponents including Jarryd Roughead, Cameron Mooney and Josh Kennedy, however he has also had stints on small forwards as well.  In the 24 point Round 13 match against Geelong Blake had 15 possessions and held key forward Cameron Mooney goalless and to only three kicks and four handballs.

Blake is ranked first at St Kilda for disposal efficiency with 89.9% and kicking efficiency third for handball efficiency  and fifth in the AFL for total marks with 137, three of his teammates are also in the top 10 being Sam Gilbert second with 158, Sam Fisher fourth with 138 and Brendon Goddard ninth with 125.    

Since Ross Lyon become St Kilda’s coach in 2007 Blake has shown remarkable durability to miss only one match out of 91. In this period no-one has played as many games of football for the St Kilda Football Club as Blake and he has currently played 62 consecutive matches. Throughout his career Blake has played 11 finals games to be equal 12thon St Kilda’s all time list.

In August 2010 Jon Anderson listed Jason Blake as one of the AFL’s six most under-rated players in his article in the Herald-Sun, and the AFL Record Season Guide 2010 even went as far to say “Underrate him at your peril” and “in his 11th season at the club, Blake has performed whatever role required of him (and there have been plenty along the journey) with the minimum of fuss.”4

Throughout his career Blake has shown great versatility to perform many roles for the St Kilda football club including, run with player in the midfield, ruckman and key defender.  The ability of Blake to perform several roles due to his endurance, leap and strength has afforded his coaches great flexibility allowing him to be used in the role that was best for team balance at that point in time.  

The only current day Saints that have been at the St Kilda longer than Jason Blake are Steven Baker and Lenny Hayes who both made their AFL debuts in 1999, Stephen Milne was placed on the Rookie list for the 2000 season.  St Kilda selected a total of seven players at the 1999 National Draft and 2000 Pre-season Draft. Amazingly Blake with 180 AFL matches has now played almost double the combined tally of 95 matches played for St Kilda by the other six selections  Cayden Beetham (37 matches), Tony Delaney (33), Damien Monkhorst (10), Sean Charles (8),Fred Campbell (7), and Murray Pitts (0). 

In an article for Saints.com.au in April 2010 Blake commented “The last couple of years have been good to be able to settle down into a position and have a niche in the team. You can really focus on the position and what it takes to play well in this role.”5 

Whilst Jason Blake doesn’t receive the same level of recognition from the wider football community that many of his teammates do, three successive top 10 finishes in St Kilda’s best and fairest under Ross Lyon since 2007 is testament to the value that St Kilda place on the role that Blake performs week in and week out for his club and provides recognition for the contribution Blake has made with his decision making, reliability and durability. 

1 AFL, AFL 2000 – The official statistical history of the AFL, page 212

2 St Kilda Football Club, Jason Blake: a Saint for all occasions by Luke Holmesby, 17 April 2008, Saint.com.au

3 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus the essential number-cruncher for season 2010, 5th edition, page 223.

4 AFL, AFL Record Season Guide 2010, page 264

5 St Kilda Football Club, Blake finds his niche by Felicity George,30 April 2010, Saint.com.au

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One Comment on “The reliable and durable Jason Blake”

  1. Kevinjw 16/08/2010 at 8:36 am #

    Well done,again Dean. I didn’t realise he had played with Melb. res. Another reject from other clubs.
    It seems the change of coach has given Jason a permanent place in the saints team. Any accolades afforded Jason are definetly deserved.
    This year will see Jason win another top ten spot for the B&F. I thought his game against the Roos. was one of his best, dashing down the flanks and driving the ball forward. Good performance.
    Well don again Dean thoroughly enjoyed. Now for Michael Gardiner.

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