Harold rides high on grandson's success

STAWELL - Stawell resident Harold Blake has ridden the highs and lows of watching his grandson Jude Bolton play 300 games at the elite level of Australian Rules Football.

Jude has achieved the ultimate dream in the AFL - playing in three grand finals for the Sydney Swans that includes two premiership winning teams, one in 2005 and again just last month.

Harold Blake has followed his grandson's journey closely and describes the highlights he has enjoyed over Jude's career.

"Naturally the three grand finals and in the early days, we went over to watch him in the under 18s in Adelaide and then we were sitting there hoping like hell he'd be drafted," Mr Blake said.

"We were hoping he didn't go to Perth. We would have liked him to stay in Victoria. As it turned out, Jude was lucky to go to Sydney. They've been good to him and he's been good to them."

Mr Blake was an avid Western Bulldogs fan before Jude started playing AFL, but as long as his grandson is playing, he will remain a firm Swans supporter.

"At the start, I just wanted Jude to play well. Next thing I knew, I wanted him and the team to make the finals so I started barracking for them. If he retires, what will I do? I don't know," Mr Blake said.

Retirement is something that would be on 32 year old Jude's mind at the moment after the Swans 10-point victory over the Hawks in this year's grand final.

Mr Blake knows what he would like Jude to do.

"I'd like him to knock off, he has had too many whacks to the head. In the first grand final (2005 against West Coast), Jude came off with a split head. He had stitches put in it, but the doctor said you could've put your hand in the hole. Anyway, they put the stitches in and he went and played again," Mr Blake recalls.

"It (retirement) is up to him. He'll have to make up his own mind."

Jude's mother, former Stawell resident Rosalie, excelled at running and was an All-Australian under 18 hockey player who has also ridden the bumps of his career.

"She loves the football. I think now she would like him to give it up, but she'd never say so because she's so competitive herself," Mr Blake said.

Each week throughout the football season, Mr Blake has enjoyed a phone call with Jude and always has plenty of advice on hand for his grandson.

"He thinks it pleases me to give him information. He's got so many coaches who could tell him what to do," Mr Blake said.

"He still gets my advice, whether he likes it or not!"

His main message to Jude over the years has been simple.

"I've always finished up saying 'try and get a couple of sausage rolls (goals)' then it doesn't matter how poorly you play."

The 88 year old great-grandfather acknowledged just how much Jude and his football has consumed his life in recent years.

Mr Blake has been to every Swans match in Melbourne, bar one ('I was a bit crook one weekend') and says he has 'grown old without knowing it.'

Just how proud are you of Jude?

"I'm very proud of him. I'm particularly proud of the way he has never hesitated, never taken a backwards step. He throws everything into football. He was never the quickest, never jumped the highest, but he has given it everything."

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