WAFL draft watch: Luke Blackwell
When Luke Blackwell was delisted from Carlton at the end of 2008, he knew there was little chance of making it back to the AFL.
Squeezed out of a midfield overflowing with talent the likes of Chris Judd, Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs, many in the WAFL were convinced Blackwell would be a great player for the league but was unlikely to get another shot at the elite level.
But then something changed in the minds of AFL recuiters.
With the demand for new players exceeding the yearly teenage talent pool, the eyes of the AFL world returned to the WAFL, VFL and SANFL.
The success of Subiaco’s Greg Broughton at Fremantle in 2009 has paved the way for other mature-aged players to find their way onto an AFL list. Michael Barlow, Andrew Strijk, James Podsiadly and Andrew Krakouer are just some of the players who have grabbed that opportunity with both hands.
While Blackwell hasn’t yet taken that next step, it may be a different story at the 2011 draft.
Eligible to be selected or traded by the GWS Giants, Blackwell has improved on an outstanding 2010 season which was overshadowed at every turn by the success of Krakouer at Swan Districts.
While still averaging a similar disposal count in 2011, the Claremont midfielder’s improvement is evident in both the quality of those disposals and the damage they cause the opposition.
In stark contrast to his last few years, the majority of Blackwell’s average 28.9 disposals this season have been recorded forward of centre, setting up a number of opportunities for a Tigers forward line many picked to struggle in the absence of spearhead Chad Jones.
His tackle count has also risen at a rapid rate, skyrocketing to an average of 4.8 compared to 2010’s 1.8 per game.
These figures are not only helping the Tigers avenge last season’s grand final loss, they have also propelled Blackwell to outright favouritism in the Sandover medal race he lost to Krakouer last year.
His performances in the past two State matches have shown he is also a big-game player, unlucky not to be a dual-Simpson medallist after the umpires failed to find a vote for his 41-possession effort against Queensland this year.
And if the 24-year-old is to make a return to the AFL, it would seem that Greater Western Sydney is his best shot.
Failing to earn a call-up to this year’s draft comnbine or State screening, Blackwell can only hope there are clubs out there hoping to snare him in a similar deal which landed Tendai Mzungu at Fremantle last October.
With the Gold Coast having the rights to players who had previously nominated for the AFL draft, the Dockers managed to get Mzungu by trading a draft pick to the Suns and avoiding the risk of losing their man to another club in the National draft.
GWS have the same concessions this year, but may be keen to keep Blackwell with a rookie selection and add some experience to what will no doubt be a very young midfield group.
Whatever the case one thing is clear, this year’s draft will be Blackwell’s last chance at a return to the elite level.