Blake Acres celebrates winning the elimination final between Carlton and Sydney at the MCG on September 8, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

BLAKE Acres did it all last Friday night. The hand of God moment. The other fingertip save. The sealer.

It was everything Carlton envisaged and more when it convinced the West Australian to return to Melbourne, just three years after he had returned home.

The 27-year-old spent six years playing for St Kilda before reluctantly being traded to Fremantle as part of the Bradley Hill deal in 2019. But despite being well versed in football in this town, the wingman never grasped just how big Carlton was until months after he arrived at Princes Park.

The elimination final was another in-your-face, can't-hear-yourself-think reminder. Wet and cold weather didn't stop 92,026 cramming into the MCG to watch the Blues' first final in a decade. It was the fifth time this season at least 80,000 have watched Carlton play. 

Acres returned to Victoria during last year's trade period after playing 45 times across three years at the Dockers, moving to the Blues in exchange for a future third-round pick after playing his best season yet in 2022. 

Blake Acres in action during the elimination final between Carlton and Sydney at the MCG on September 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Since then the 193cm, 92kg midfielder has proven to be a very shrewd piece of list management, addressing an immediate need on a wing, where he has averaged a career-high 23.5 disposals and 433.8m gained from 23 appearances in his first season at the Blues.  

"I didn't know Carlton was this big until I got here," Acres told inside a heaving Carlton rooms after Friday night's thrilling six-point win over Sydney at the MCG

"I thought the Freo crowds last year were outstanding; this has gone to another level this year. Getting to play out on the 'G most weeks is something you want to do as a kid; I'm loving it right now."


Acres has produced some exceptional performances in 2023, but none more crucial than last Friday night, winning the race against the clock to be fit in time after injuring his collarbone against Greater Western Sydney in round 24. 

The West Perth product collected nine coaches votes from Michael Voss and John Longmire – the most on the ground – after collecting 26 disposals, 11 contested possessions, seven inside 50s, five clearances, one goal and 570m gained. 

"I was in doubt all the way up until the first bounce in my own head. The fitness staff and physio did a bunch of work me and got me right," Acres said.  

"I just wanted to get out there and see what it would be like with it. It actually felt fine. It will get better throughout the week and the rest of the finals. Upwards from here."

Carlton led from the moment Sam Docherty kicked the first goal of the game inside two minutes until the final siren, reaching half-time five goals ahead before Sydney finished with a wet sail, with Hayden McLean kicking a goal with less than 30 seconds left to add some late drama. 


"That's finals footy. You're never out of it when you're behind and you're never out of it when you're ahead. (We've) been in that situation a lot this year. We were well drilled towards the end of those quarters and games to finish games off. We enjoy the close ones," Acres said.

Acres was essentially squeezed out of Fremantle last year to help the Dockers clear enough cap space to acquire Luke Jackson from Melbourne in one of the biggest – and most successful 2022 trades to date – moves last October. 


After getting Adam Saad, Adam Cerra, George Hewett, Lewis Young, Zac Williams and Marc Pittonet in recent years, the targeted decision by Blues list boss Nick Austin has proven to be the perfect move for both the club and for Acres.  

"I've loved being at Carlton this year," he said.

"I've had the rollercoaster this year. They had it at the end of last year. To see what this group has been through and to be in the inner circle now. You get a bit of reward in a finals win, especially for guys like 'Crippa' (Patrick Cripps) and ‘Weiters’ (Jacob Weitering) and 'Doc' (Sam Docherty) and those guys that have been here for so long. They deserve that one. Hopefully we can keep going forward."

Sam Docherty, Patrick Cripps, Blake Acres and Marc Pittonet sing the team song after Carlton's win over Melbourne at the MCG in round 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Acres played a total of two finals across his first nine seasons in the AFL – both were in 2022 – but now he will play two on back-to-back Friday nights. And there might be more to come this September.