Northern Blues, U18 TAC Cup Squad

The Northern Blues and Northern Knights joined together last night for the respective clubs’ main training session at Ikon Park.

It was the latest sign of the two clubs looking for different ways to strengthen their relationship and encourage the Northern Knights-Blues pathway.

The affiliation has already seen the Knights’ Matthew Perry make his VFL debut for the Blues as 23rd man, while Bobby Lamanna played for a fortnight with the Development side.

Jake Bradley – a Knight who is the son of Craig Bradley – has also been training with Carlton in recent weeks.

Northern Knights Talent Manager Rhy Gieschen said the night was encouraging and that all involved took to the initiative well.

“We had 20 players attend last night. it was a really good experience for our guys for the environment they’d be stepping into next year,” Gieschen said.

“Obviously we want players to go through and become AFL players next year but if not we definitely encourage our top-age players to move onto the VFL system.

“Josh Fraser really drove the standards – the professionalism and culture of the Northern Blues was a really good eye-opener for our top-age group.”

Along with Perry and Lamanna, the Blues have seen 14 former Knights go through their ranks at VFL and Development level this year, as well as the AFL-listed Dylan Buckley.

The Blues have been a beneficiary of Knights graduates in recent seasons, with Northern Blues General Manager Garry O’Sullivan describing them as the “cornerstone” of the club.

Two of the club’s stalwarts over recent years in Brent Bransgrove and Tim Totevski came through the Knights system, while Sam Peet – who was a Knight in 2015 – debuted for the Blues VFL team in Round 6.

“We introduced our players last night and got the ball rolling for the next stage of their football career,” Gieschen said.

“It was good for our boys to see them of the boys they saw last year, the likes of Sam Peet, Kye Declase and Bailey Jordan who went through the Knights and welcomed the boys with open arms.”

The Knights’ captain and vice-captain Mason Blakey and Corey McKay were both present, in a session which Gieschen said the Knights players were very much part of the group.

“It was something Garry, Josh and I spoke about: we weren’t afraid to train the boys really hard and it reinforced to us we have some players ready for VFL football,” Gieschen said.

“We saw last night really as ‘work experience’ for their football, identifying what the next phase is and to give our players a greater understanding of what that next level of football looks like.”

Peet was joined by Knights leader Jamison Shea as the two clubs also hosted a development clinic at RMIT University in Bundoora last weekend.

Gieschen said the clinic and last night’s session were cases of the Blues and Knights constantly looking to improve the regional pathway.

“Garry O’Sullivan and I are in constant communication about ways to strengthen the relationships and build the talent pathway in the northern suburbs,” Gieschen said.

“We’re always searching for way to improve, whether that’s through Matt Perry and Bobby Lamanna playing at the Blues which we always encourage or getting both teams together like last night.”