MITCHELL Blake is one of the few local players who can claim to have played for just two clubs in the past 25 years.
The 31-year-old’s career kicked off at Lawton Park as a five-year-old defender but he found his football niche eight years later when he switched roles and went up front.
That was the trigger for regular Golden Boot awards and the transition from junior to senior football came in spectacular fashion.
Current Langwarrin senior assistant Jamie Skelly was coaching Langy’s reserves when Blake was called on.
It was an away game against Clifton Hill and the teenager made a spectacular debut with a hat-trick.
“It was the first game my dad missed and he still talks about that today,” Blake said with a laugh.
Blake won three reserves championships at Langwarrin – under Skelly (2010), Phil McGuinness (2014) and Ronnie Whitton (2017).
That last title triumph signalled the end of Blake’s Langwarrin career as the seniors won promotion to the NPL catapulting the reserves into an under-20 competition in 2018.
Former Langy defender Billy Armour was coaching Skye and phoned Blake.
“It was time I started playing senior football anyway and when Billy explained that Skye was a bit like Langy in some respects that was good enough for me,” Blake said.
Skye was in State 3 South-East then and although Blake scored just five goals in his first season there the side finished third.
Off the pitch though things were not going smoothly.
Armour left and Blake’s former coach McGuinness was hired with immediate results.
Blake’s 15-goal haul in 2019 spearheaded Skye’s second-placed finish and promotion to State 2 South East.
Blake was runner-up in the league Golden Boot award won by Collingwood’s Patrick Makris with 16 goals.
However the next two seasons were ravaged by the pandemic and Skye was denied the opportunity to cement its newfound status.
That changed this year and although Skye failed to win promotion it was in with a chance going into the final round of the season.
So what will it take to get the club to the next level?
“That’s a tricky one,” Blake replied.
“I believe with the boys we have it’s definitely possible – if we can keep them on the pitch – to get promoted.
“Obviously Skye has a lot of players who are older, myself included, and with that comes injuries.
“Other clubs with bigger budgets can go out and recruit a lot of players but we rely on the boys having real passion for the club, boys like ‘Chilli’ (Daniel Attard) and Marcus (Collier) and boys that have been there for so many years.
“If we can keep them on the pitch we’ll do well.”
Unlike a growing number of its opponents Skye has never had a strength and conditioning coach and organises its fitness preparation inhouse leaving it to the senior coaching staff to oversee players’ workload and recovery from injury.
“We’ve only got the two coaches (McGuinness and assistant Pete Natsis) but 100 per cent it would be great to have one (a strength and conditioning coach).
“I just don’t know if there’s room in the budget being a small club.”
Despite this Skye continues to punch above its weight against better resourced rivals and Blake expects this to continue.
“We have one or two outstanding players who can change a game by themselves.
“As for my role I rely on people around me, guys like ‘Chilli and the new boy ‘Sash’ (Slavisa Saric) – there’s a few of us who kind of bounce off each other.
“I won the (club) Golden Boot this year with six goals but you look at my strike partners and the attacking midfielders and they had similar numbers of goals as well.
“That’s what we do – we rely on each other.”
We’ll see how far that reliance carries Skye next year especially when it confronts local rivals Peninsula Strikers and Frankston Pines.
“I definitely know that Strikers are a really, really good team and such a young team.
“And you see their posts on facebook so they’ve kept a lot of those players and they’ve recruited too.
“Pines will do well too. They’ll recruit well.
“Actually I’m glad they came up.
“I really enjoy playing against Strikers and Pines because these games bring the best out of peninsula football.”
As for Blake’s personal aims next season more goals heads his bucket list.
“I’d like to win the Golden Boot again and I’m going to try and score 10 goals or more.
“I’d also love to go through a season without being injured as the body’s getting a bit on these days.
“It would be nice to have a full season and get among the goals and maybe we can win promotion.”
Meanwhile Peninsula Strikers have recruited Paul Nott from Mornington as their senior team manager.
The Centenary Park outfit also has arranged some pre-season friendlies:
Strikers v Somerville Eagles (Saturday 10 December, Centenary Park, 1pm and 3pm), Strikers v White Star Dandenong (Wednesday 25 January, Centenary Park, 7pm), Strikers v Chelsea (Saturday 28 January, Centenary Park, 1pm and 3pm), Strikers v Beaumaris (Saturday 4 February, Centenary Park, 1pm and 3pm), Geelong Rangers v Strikers (Saturday 11 February, Myers Reserve, 1pm and 3pm), Strikers v Banyule City (Saturday 25 February, Centenary Park, 1pm and 3pm).
In State 4 news Carlo Melino’s Chelsea has arranged the following pre-season matches:
Strikers v Chelsea (Saturday 28 January, 1pm and 3pm), Casey Panthers v Chelsea (Saturday 4 February, Prospect Hill Reserve, 1pm and 3pm), Pakenham Utd v Chelsea (Saturday 4 March, IYU Recreation Reserve, 1pm and 3pm), Chelsea v Aspendale (Thursday 9 March, Edithvale Recreation Reserve, 6.30pm and 8.30pm).