Blake Hardwick (Eastern Ranges)
It must be a good feeling to be the third string half forward behind two AIS Academy players in Sam Weideman and James Parsons, but that is the exact position Blake Hardwick has found himself in for 2015.
Talented in his own right, Hardwick would enjoy the focus being directed towards his highly rated teammates, however, if he keeps producing performances like the one on Saturday, he is unlikely to fly under the radar for much longer.
Against the Western Jets, Hardwick was a focal point up forward, kicking goals from set shots or on the run, he was creating havoc for opposition defenders because of his size. Hardwick is one of those medium-tall forwards who is too strong for smaller defenders, but too quick for taller ones.
On Saturday, he kicked eight goals against the Jets, an equal high for him in the TAC Cup. In 2014 he kicked 24 goals from 16 matches, despite the side failing to make the finals. That included a bag of eight against the Geelong Falcons that followed on from a bag of four goals the week prior against the North Ballarat Rebels.
This season, Hardwick would be aiming for a more consistent effort on his behalf, following on from his bottom-age year to really establish himself as a strong draft prospect in November. As stated, last year he showed he could be a damaging player on his day, but half of his goals came within a forntight.
The bonus was, he seemed to get better as the season went on, kicking 16 goals in the last five matches. In that time, he averaged just under 20 disposals a game and 4.5 marks a game. As a permanent forward, he also averaged just under four tackles a game, showing he also had a solid defensive game as well.
After the game, Hardwick said he was just pleased to finally get some match practice.
“We had a really long preseason,” he said. “It’s good to finally get out on the track and get a good win.”
Hardwick said he hoped the eight goals was the start of a good season for him personally. “It’s good to get through with some confidence for the rest of the season,” he said. “I was kicking pretty straight, which I haven’t been doing lately, which was pretty good.”
No doubt Eastern Ranges will also be hoping Hardwick continues to kick straight, when they look for their second win in a row against the other winners from round one, the Oakleigh Chargers.