Connor Blakely (Swan Districts)
Height: 186 cm
Weight: 81 kg
Strengths: Inside ball winning, evasion
Areas of improvement: Speed
Player comparison: Callan Ward/Blake Acres
A hard working inside midfielder, Connor Blakely’s inside work is more delicate, calculated and composed instead of the bash and crash style we’re beginning to see more of at AFL level. Blakely measures at 186 cm but there are rumours that he could be closer to 190 cm which, if true, could really shoot Blakely up into top 10 calculations.
Despite not having much speed, one of Blakely’s biggest strengths is his fleet-footedness. With or without ball in hand, Blakely’s lateral movement is elite. If there is a ground ball to be won Blakely is the first there; he just finds ways through traffic as if it weren’t there.
At ground level his ball winning is exceptional with his hands clean and speed approaching the ball high. While he may not be quick, he hits the ball at close to full pace which allows him a great starting point for creating space in congestion – another skill of his.
With ball in hand Blakely just has this talent for transitioning it from congestion to space. He doesn’t possess burst or the physical power to crash through but his evasive movement allows him to find space to effectively assist in his disposal.
Blakely is also a gifted reader of the ruckman’s tap and excellent at winning clearances. His ability to keep his feet and not go to ground is elite. By hand Blakely’s distribution even when under pressure is very solid.
While primarily a ball winning inside midfielder, Blakely does have an outside game. He knows how to find the ball outside the contest and has a basic willingness to spread and provide an option if needed. By foot he takes the high percentage options and tries to ensure that while he’s not an elite kick, his kicks are effective. He possesses good vision and decision making. Defensively Blakely plays an accountable brand of football and his tackling is solid.
Blakely’s last 20 metre sprint was run in 3.19 seconds – a very slow time. He has run closer to three seconds in the past but it’s still clear that he’s not particularly quick. While in traffic Blakely is able to use his evasive skills, on the outside he needs to dispose of the ball quickly as most players are capable of both running and closing him down.
At this stage of his career, Blakely does not have much forward game, not seeming very natural when inside 50 nor having the tendency to push forward when in the midfield. He also has no contested marking game despite his above average height.
There are occasions where, when in disposal of the ball and upon realising there is no scope to break away from the contest Blakely just blindly bombs it long, often hurting his side. While normally a reasonable decision maker, this trait is not one that will help him at the next level.
Averaging 21 disposals last year in the championships and 18 at senior WAFL level for Swan Districts, Blakely presents a ready made option to impact at AFL level in 2015. However, while ready made – he still has upside unlike some of the more bigger bodied inside midfielders in this crop.
If Blakely can translate his above average senior level performances to AFL level, by the end of 2015 we will have seen some real glimpses of his ability. With further physical development Blakely could add a stronger and more imposing element to his game to compliment his natural and skilled inside game.
Blakely shares some real similarities with 2013 draftee Blake Acres while also have a similar style and spread of attributes to Callan Ward. Blakely’s gifted and natural ability to win the ball on the inside and create space via evasive movements is not dissimilar to what Marcus Bontempelli showed at AFL level last year as well, however the similarities stop there.