Blake Acres (West Perth)
Player comparison: Bryce Gibbs
Strengths: Endurance, link up play, footy smarts, versatility
Weaknesses: Inside ability, kicking is only average
Blake Acres is a gifted player with the versatility and skill set to play most positions on the ground. Acres has played regularly on the wing but also plays as a running back flanker or can go forward with great effect. Acres is exactly the type of player who can fly under the radar because he goes about his business out on the flanks rather than in the heart of the midfield but his work is equally as important as that of the major inside ball winners.
Acres has incredible endurance and this allows him to be all over the ground and rack up possessions. He has long legs and a rangy build so he can run all day, and ran an outstanding 15.4 beep test at the WA testing day earlier this year to highlight his elite running ability. Acres is a very good link up player and runs to the right spots every time. If you see a guy out in space it is likely to be Acres because he gets on his bike and runs to where the ball is going next, rather than getting sucked into the contest.
Acres doesn’t have elite disposal but it is good enough to get the job done. Acres is not the kind of player to hit lace out 50 metre passes onto the chest of a leading forward but he can confidently hit targets up to 40 metres away on either foot by giving it a little more air. He gets into space a lot so he can take the time to steady and find a target rather than picking the ball up and throwing it on the boot with little care for the end result. Acres tends to be rather kick happy but that is also due to his role as a link man, because he is often the last man in the chain is the guy who delivers that final kick from the back line to the midfield or half forwards.
It will be interesting to see how Acres goes if he manages to break into the West Perth senior team. Acres struggled at the Under 18s Championships due to the higher level of intensity and pressure on the ball carrier which negated some of his outside run and spread, as he averaged just 11 disposals and one rebound from defensive 50 per game compared to the 19 touches and 3 rebounds he averages in the WAFL colts. However this could have been due to a lack of match fitness since he had played just one game since coming back from a serious shoulder injury.
Defensively Acres is quite strong, particularly when the ball is in the air. He reads the play well and has long arms which help him in one on one contests. However I have my doubts on Acres’ ability to play this role at a higher level due to the bigger bodies of AFL forwards. In the WAFL colts, Acres doesn’t get pushed around but opponents in the AFL will be much stronger and be able to out-muscle the lightly framed Acres.
While he probably starts off in the AFL as a back flanker I believe he will transition to a midfield role similar to Bryce Gibbs. As his body matures Acres will be able to start winning more of his own ball, although it will never be a strength of his, much like Gibbs. He knows the right places to run so he will be able to adapt to AFL football initially although he will probably have to start off in the reserves and work his way up into the senior team after proving himself.