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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Mark Blicavs gives up Olympic 1500m dream to return to the Cats & now in for the long run

Mark Blicavs gives up Olympic 1500m dream to return to the Cats & now in for the long run

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Cat Blicavs a running man

By Ben Guthrie
Thu 28 Jun, 2012

Former Olympic hopeful Mark Blicavs is now
fully committed to his football career with the Cats

TRAVELLING the athletics circuit around Europe for the past six weeks, Mark Blicavs knew his athletics career had run its race.

Upon arriving back in Melbourne on Sunday, Blicavs contacted the Geelong Football Club and said he had decided to fully pursue his football career with the Cats.

After impressing in a trial with the club last October, the Cats selected Blicavs with pick No.54 in the 2012 Rookie Draft as a three-year non-registered player.

Importantly, being unregistered means Blicavs does not take up another rookie’s spot.

While retaining him on their list, the Cats permitted Blicavs to pursue his dream of making the 2012 London Olympics in the 1500m track event.

It wasn't to be.

Blicavs - which is pronounced Blitz-Arvs- told he was now fully committed to his football career with the Cats.

"I wouldn’t have made the decision to come down to the club this year if I had regrets with my running," Blicavs said.

"I’ve always said once I decided to come down here I’d be 100 per cent focussed [on football]."

During May and June, Blicavs competed at meets in Belgium, Germany and London attempting to shave eight seconds off his best time of 3 min, 43 sec to qualify for the Games.

But achieving such dramatic improvement was always going to be a difficult task. He ran 3 min, 44 sec in all three of his races.

"Of course every athlete aims to go to the Olympics," Blicavs said.

"But I was just going over there to experience what it was like living a runner’s life full-time overseas."

On Tuesday, he had a meeting with the Geelong coaching staff, recruiter Stephen Wells and captain Joel Selwood to discuss the best way to hone his athletic exploits and bring him up to speed with the intricate details of the game.

Standing at 198cm and 78kg, Blicavs has not played football since he was 14.

However, when playing for the Sunbury Lions as a junior, he did finish runner-up to now Port Adelaide player Mitchell Banner in the Riddell District Football League under-11 best and fairest award.

Being such an unknown could be an advantage, Blicavs believes.

"People come into clubs nowadays and they have footage of them and they know what footballer they’re going to get," Blicavs said.

"But no-one’s seen me play, so they don’t know."

The Cats view Blicavs as a long-term prospect and Scott said they would be careful not to rush him.

"Our priority is to make sure we don't put him in harm's way. We wouldn't have put him on our list if we didn't consider him a long-term prospect, so it would be crazy to rush him short-term," Scott said.

"We're pretty confident he'll adapt pretty quickly to our program."

Blicavs has a best time of 8 min, 18 sec over 3km (Hawthorn youngster Bradley Hill holds the Draft Combine record at 9 min and 52 sec) and competed as a junior at state level in the high jump.

He also has a fantastic sporting pedigree - parents Andy and Karen (nee Ogden) represented Australia at the Olympics, while sister Sara plays for Dandenong in the WNBL and brother Kris is also a talented basketballer.

Scott sees the contact aspect of football as Blicavs' biggest challenge.

"I think the contact part of it is going to be the thing that's most foreign to him," Scott said.

Blicavs agreed, but added it was something he will address in the coming weeks.

"I'm a pretty competitive person and Joel Selwood said to me if I do all the right things, my teammates will respect me, and earning my teammates' respect is really important to me," he said.

Depending on the rate of his development, Blicavs and the Cats have marked down a possible VFL debut on July 28 against Bendigo Gold at Simonds Stadium.

As well as the obvious need to put size on his frame, Blicavs plans to work hard on fine-tuning all aspects of his game.

"I think at this stage I have some strengths but I have little idea of how to use them," Blicavs said.

"I’d like to think that I’ve got a pretty good leap and fairly strong hands.

"I could run 20 laps of Simonds Stadium non-stop and be fine, and do it a pretty good pace, but the fact is [when I play football] I’ll have to sprint 50m, tackle someone, get up and go again."

Now that the dream of competing at the Olympics has been extinguished, Blicavs said he was determined to make it as a footballer.

"I would’ve loved to have kept going with my running and seen how far I could’ve gone with that, but now I've made the decision to stick with footy I have no regrets," he said.

"You can’t do everything in life."

Last edited by Admin on Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:45 pm; edited 1 time in total



Geelong youngster Mark Blicavs in for the long run

Jon Anderson
From:Herald Sun
April 19, 2013

WHEN the sledges came, Mark Blicavs knew he had made the transition from Olympic distance-running hopeful to fully fledged AFL footballer.

In just his seventh Australian Rules match in almost 10 years, the 22-year-old made his debut at the MCG on Easter Monday against Hawthorn.

The 198cm rookie had been fast-tracked into he Cats' team as a ruckman because of injuries to Hamish McIntosh, Dawson Simpson and Nathan Vardy.

Opposed to David Hale and Max Bailey, Blicavs was part of a Geelong side that found itself five goals down approaching halftime in front of 76,000.

Some of the crowd, namely the Hawthorn cheer squad, kept asking Blicavs to display his imaginary Olympic medal, a request that he admits he found "very amusing".

"Then a couple of the Hawthorn players mentioned how much their rucks were killing us in the first half. I thought about it and almost agreed with them," Blicavs laughed.

A one-time Carlton supporter who was a former SuperCoach fanatic (he always had Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson in his teams), Blicavs has surprised everyone with his rapid development.

Or not quite everyone, given he aimed to be in contention for Round 1 during pre-season.

We are talking about someone who last year toured Europe as a middle-distance runner, running a huge personal best of 3min 43sec in the 1500m before arriving at Geelong as an 87kg beanstalk for an intense five-week training course and a handful of VFL games.

In those matches it became obvious he had something despite having only played two years of junior football, with the under-11 Sunbury Lions and under-14 Taylors Lakes sides.

He was a listener and learner, quickly picking up not just a skill set, but an ability to understand what happens which is evident in his decision-making.

Blicavs ranks No.1 for disposal efficiency among the 18 AFL ruckmen who have averaged more than 10 disposals a game.

Some of that is due to the fact he handballs at this stage a lot more than he kicks, but so far he rarely gets caught with the ball.

"It is all about me playing my role and doing what the coach asks of me," he said.

"I do have high expectations, not just holding my own but actually beating my opponent. But I also know I have to keep it simple and take the first option when possible.

"(North Melbourne's Todd) Goldstein is the toughest I have been against, he was really good.

"I'm still learning to jump up and outwards and making contact with them. Brad Ottens is working with me.

"I have improved my team defence in terms of formation, not just hanging off my opponents but going to pick up someone if they are more dangerous.

"I like the ruck for the freedom it gives you but also enjoy that fast runner role as a high forward.

"I don't know yet where I will end up playing. I have to work on my marking in general. I try and use my voice as much as I can."

If I was smaller I wouldn't be playing for Geelong now. Because of my height I don't need to have superstar skill at this stage.

Everything is new and exciting to a young man who has fitted in very quickly at Geelong.

As for missing athletics, Blicavs said he hasn't had time given his rapid football journey that has seen his weight rise to 97kg.

His athletic mates are constantly at him to give their numbers to the Geelong recruiting staff, but he is aware his selection had a bit to do with the fact he stands a lot taller than most runners.

"If I was smaller I wouldn't be playing for Geelong now. Because of my height I don't need to have superstar skill at this stage," he said.

"When I first got drafted a few of my mates were like, 'Put a good word in for me' but they are 175cm-178cm."

The surprising aspect to Blicavs' game has been his ability to win possession around the ground, with his teammates using him more and more as their confidence grows.

His ruckwork is naturally a work in progress. Against Hawthorn his hitout win percentage was 37 per cent, followed by 16 per cent in Round 2 against North Melbourne and 41 per cent last week against the Blues - it is low but improving.

He still finds concentrating for a couple of hours at high intensity a very difficult assignment after competing in a sport where the action is over in three or four minutes.

And he has to mentally stop himself from watching, and applauding, outstanding passages of play, getting his mind on to where he should be rather than how many SuperCoach points his team just scored.

His goal is not just to improve his ruckwork, but become a better tackler, kick the ball with more poise, improve his explosive speed - in fact you name it, he wants to do it.

And who's to say he won't after what the AFL has already witnessed?

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