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The call that saved a career

Jennifer Phelan  February 27, 2013 7:22 AM

When Jason Blake was drafted Where it all began for the 200-game Saint
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Jason Blake was offered a one-year contract after a trade for Eagle Mitch Brown fell through


IT WAS a phone call from St Kilda coach Scott Watters on October 26 last year that brought the news veteran Jason Blake had been waiting to hear. 

Blake, 31, was out of contract and had been told by the Saints they were going to try and secure a trade for West Coast defender Mitch Brown.

Had that eventuated, Blake would have almost certainly finished his AFL career on 212 games, lodged between 2000 and 2012.

But the trade didn't happen and once the 2pm deadline passed, Watters called the experienced defender and told him he would go around again.

"It was just really wait and see," Blake told AFL.com.au.

"It wasn't a factor of whether I could play anymore; it was a fact about list management and where it sat.

"I was very fortunate to get a call from Scotty to say that he would love to have me back on board to play a similar role to last year and just contribute as much as I could.

"I was very grateful and very, very happy to take that call."

It was the second year running Blake's pre-season featured a cloud of doubt after he was delisted at the end of 2011 for administration purposes related to total player payments.

The Saints wanted to move him off the veterans' list and shift Justin Koschitzke on to it, which saw him scratched completely and redrafted at pick No.76 in the 2011 NAB AFL Draft in November.

Despite the doubt last year's scenario provided, Blake said he was comfortable with the process he and the club went through as the trade period unfolded.  

"Scotty was great; he was talking to me the whole time and the club and I knew exactly where I was at, which is the best thing. You don't want to be in limbo," he said.

"I've been around the club long enough that I know the deal, and I certainly know the environment I work in.

"It wasn't a big surprise, I knew how it all worked and if it didn't go my way, it would be fine."

It did go Blake's way, and he signed a one-year deal following the trade period.

He now has the chance to avoid finishing his AFL career in the middle of season, like he did in 2012.

A left ankle injury in round 14 against North Melbourne forced him to have a clean up and then there was a chance he would need further surgery to insert a bolt.

He didn't, made it through the next five weeks and played in the VFL in round 20 with an eye to coming back into the team should the Saints make the finals.

When they didn't, he played the final four games for Sandringham and set about getting himself in decent shape for the pre-season.

Surgery to reattach a tendon in his right ring finger kept him from ball work early on but he was able to get miles in his legs before taking part in full training when the Saints came back after Christmas.

Had Blake's career as a footballer not continued this year, he would have committed more time to his role as a project manager for management consultancy firm Thinc.

Blake has a degree in civil engineering and business management and has been involved with the company for about four years on his days off.

"I've been very fortunate to get through with a degree and to have some work experience and get to know the property industry within Melbourne and meet a lot of people," he said.

"After footy, hopefully I'll be able to carry that on.

"It's something I enjoy and I feel I can certainly take that further when I finish."

So when will Blake hang up the boots? He's on a one-year deal and is approaching his season as such.

He's not prepared to put a definitive date on when the football stops and the corporate career really takes off but is realistic that day is not far away.

"I know it's coming to the end. You never say never and I've got inspiration from Lenny Hayes and Stephen Milne; they're a couple of stalwarts from the club and they keep on going," he said.

"I approach every session like it could be my last, and if I come with that attitude, I know I'll give 100 per cent every time and really keep a positive attitude to it all and try and help the younger guys grow and mature as much as I can.

"I know if I do that, I'll be in the team not just now but in the future as well.

"I'm very grateful to St Kilda over the years, it's a great club to be involved in and if I can help them as much as I can in the future I will."

Jason Blake is a defender in NAB AFL Fantasy. He averaged 65.69 points in 2012. Register your team at our AFL Fantasy Hub.

Jennifer Phelan is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow her on Twitter @AFL_JenPhelan