Tom Blamires watched last year’s draft night come-and-go without much fuss.
Despite being eligible for selection and a member of the Dragons’ 2020 squad, his expectations were low ahead of what is a life-changing event for so many of his peers across the country.
But rather than bemoan his non-selection, the wingman saw this as an opportunity to re-align his focus as he watched his former Sandringham teammates realise their dreams, as their names were called by AFL clubs.
“I more just used it as something to look-up to and aspire to be one day hopefully,” Blamires said.
“One of my mates that went to my school was Archie Perkins. He got drafted top-10 and I just thought, ‘how cool would that be if that was me?’. So I used it as more, motivation than sadness, because I knew I wasn’t going to get drafted that year but, more just thinking how cool it was, and how it is possible playing for Sandy, being able to get recognised.
“So I used it as motivation to just keep on-top of my stuff.”
Now with high school and school football at Brighton Grammar under his belt, and with part-time work in the hospitality sector drying-up as a result of lockdowns, Blamires is in a position where he can commit himself to the Dragons’ program more than ever before.
Keeping on-top of his stuff involved following routines that had been carved throughout Victoria’s grueling 2020 lockdown, which he labelled a “12-month pre-season”, following the fitness regimen that was implemented by his school football staff, before transitioning to the Dragons’ equivalent over summer.
The end product of his commitment to the programs forms the foundation of his game, as his running power sets him apart from the pack, and is what he falls-back on through various lockdowns and periods without games endured throughout a frustrating 2021.
“I kind of know if I just stick to that, and then whenever it (footy) comes back, I know that I’ll be reading to go, and it’s not like anything will come unexpected if I know that I’ve done the work.
“I reckon it’s more of a confidence thing knowing that I’ve done all the running, done all the gym work, knowing that I’ve got the strength, knowing that I’ve got the fitness, knowing that I’ve got the speed, so yeah not so much has it improved heaps, but I reckon just gaining confidence.
“I just back myself in to keep-up with it and just back my footy in if I just keep working, eventually it (footy) will come back hopefully. That’s my mindset anyway.”
With a spot in the side for round one looking out of reach after some feedback from Senior Coach, Jackson Kornberg during the preseason, Blamires decided it was time to adapt.
In an effort to add another string to his bow, and show some leadership as one of the more experienced members of the group, he made the margins of the game his focus, striving to be someone his fellow Dragons would love to take the field with.
“I didn’t really know if I was going to make the round one team to be honest, but since then I kind of just [focused on] more just the selfless stuff, the little things like tackle pressure, smothers and stuff like that. I just wanted to do the selfless things for the team and be the best teammate possible.
“That was kind of my main goal coming into the season.
“Knowing how talented our list is, I’m definitely not the most talented but if I can just be one of the better teammates, that was kind of the goal to just keep my spot in the team and just, ever since kind of, just grew on that, my footy’s just grown based on that period I guess.
“I kind of just didn’t look back, did everything that I could, no matter if it was just speaking louder, being more of a leader, just little things like that that ended up paying off.”
And pay-off it has; the 19-year-old’s consistency has made him indispensable in Kornberg’s side, as one of just five players to have featured in all nine games this season.
His trademark hard-running sees him work both deep in defence, and launch counter-attacks going the other way. No better was this on display than in round four against the Stingrays at Trevor Barker.
After roving a marking contest at half-back and firing a handball to a teammate, Blamires got on his bike. As play developed along the Beach Road wing and Dante Visentini sent the ball to the top of the goalsquare, Blamires was there once again, right place, right time, and was rewarded with a goal, sharking the lose ball from the front of the contest.
As a keen observer of the game, and blessed to grow-up watching his beloved Geelong’s dynasty of the late 2000s, Blamires is not short of role models. Out of their current side, he cites two from their on-ball brigade as players he looks to emulate.
“He (Sam Menegola) plays half-forward wing, using his running capacity and is always where the ball is, he’s kind of everywhere really. I just look at those players because, mostly Menegola, I’ve been watching them for a while now, realizing how much their tank helps them and pushes them through games.
“Isaac Smith, he probably gets most of his touches in the last quarter because everyone’s cooked and he’s the one that just keeps running across the ground.”
Having celebrated the success of his teammates last year, hopefully this November it will be Tom’s time to bask in the glory.