BLAKE Acres was in St Kilda's gym last October when his phone rang.
It was his manager Andrew McDougall telling him that, with only 36 hours left in the Trade Period, he might be off to Fremantle.
The deal to send star Docker Bradley Hill to the Saints had hit the skids, leaving Acres, a West Australian, a part of the trade at very late notice even with a year to run on his contract at St Kilda.
Having just jetted back into Melbourne two days earlier, Acres left Moorabbin and jumped on a plane back to Perth to meet the Dockers, have his medical and chat through the move. The deal was done the next day.
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"I was just doing a little weights session and my manager rang me and let me know so I quickly got out of there," Acres told AFL.com.au.
"There had been some talks about it with Hill coming over, so I had a little bit of an idea but there was a day to go so I thought I was pretty much settled. You don't expect a call like that to come so close to the deadline. But it happened and I spoke to the Dockers and the opportunity I was given was almost too good to turn down."
Acres wasn't pushing for a move, was comfortable in Melbourne and had no issues with the Saints. But the prospect of a two-year contract extension – meaning at least three seasons at the Dockers – and the belief he would be settled on the wing were enticing factors to agree to the move.
"Then I was on the flight on Tuesday night because the trade deadline was Wednesday. I got up Wednesday morning, went to Fremantle, met everyone, did my medical and then that night it was done. It was a pretty quick turnaround and then I was back on a flight a week later. I went and packed all my stuff up and got back to Perth for the pre-season," he said.
"I was pretty settled in Melbourne at the time, but for footy and my professional career it was a really good fit for me. To be able to play the position I wanted to play in for my entire career and not get moved around and play the ruck, and a deep forward role at times and play consistent minutes on the ground [was appealing]."
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In the past month Acres has proven why the Dockers were interested. After an interrupted start to his time at Fremantle, the 24-year-old has struck form in the past three games, averaging 25 disposals. He has shown his run and drive from the wing and ability to be a marking option around the ground.
It came after a delayed start to the season after he suffered a serious hamstring tendon injury in the days before round one at Dockers training. Then, after the COVID-19 shutdown, a calf injury halted his progress before returning to AFL level for his Fremantle debut (against St Kilda) in round six.
He received another knock to his calf against Geelong in round eight and then focused on having a 'mini pre-season' period of training.
Without full scale matches at second-tier level, Acres didn't play in some of the Dockers' scrimmages, instead focusing on a month of improving his fitness and doing more contested training away from the group to ensure he was ready at a full-tilt return to the top level.
It has worked, with Acres' end to the season, as well as the Dockers' promising run of results, showing an exciting future with the club under coach Justin Longmuir.
"It's a pretty simple structure 'JL's' got us doing and that makes it easier game day. I know where my teammates are going to be at times and when I can give it to them, get off my guy and go and win the footy. It's bringing out the best in me," he said.
Acres, who has been closely following St Kilda's march up the ladder this season and still speaks with former teammates regularly, finishes his year on Sunday against the Bulldogs in Cairns.
"I think the trade's worked out pretty well for both teams," he said. "I'm happy with it all."