Although he failed to scale the heights of rugby league that he seemed certain to early in his career, Phil Blake is one of the most fondly remembered players of the 1980s – largely thanks to his scintillating individual brilliance.
The 1982 Dally M Rookie of the Year after exploding onto the scene with Manly, Blake scored a phenomenal 27 tries in 24 the following season, a tally that has been repeated by one player (Nathan Blacklock, 2001) since.
But Blake plauteaued, and the emergence of Des Hasler saw him shifted around the backline. He rejuvenated his career by linking with South Sydney in 1987, however, bringing crowds to their feet again with his blistering pace and freakish instincts.
Blake’s trademark – the chip-and-chase – was back in full force during the latter part of the decade.
He made his lone NSW Origin appearance off the bench in 1989, claiming Dally M Five-eighth of the Year honours as the Rabbitohs stormed to the minor premiership.
Blake struggled to make an impression during one-season stints with North Sydney and Canberra, but played in a grand final with St George in 1993 and became a prized signing for the fledgling Auckland Warriors.
The versatile journeyman scored the Warriors’ first-ever try from fullback in the 1995 season opener, eventually retiring two years later as a 33-year-old with 138 tries from 271 first grade games to his credit – totals that ranked him eighth and 10th in premiership history at the time.