Family duel to fire up season
BLAKE and Shaun O'Loan could be forgiven for feeling a little nervous on the eve of the 2012 Ipswich Rugby League season.
Taking over the captaincy of a Brothers team missing half of last season's championship line-up, as Blake has done, is a big ask.
Shaun has returned to coach Goodna, the club he led to the 1989 A-grade title.
But with the club in its centenary season, expectation is higher than usual.
Raising the stakes further, the two teams meet in the opening round of the IRL at Brothers tomorrow.
But if either O'Loan were worried, there was no sign of it as they wrestled like any father and son on Blake's 27th birthday this week.
There was certainly less tension than back in 2006 when then Brothers A-grade coach Shaun dropped Blake from A grade a month before finals.
Brothers went on to claim the title, with Blake playing in the Reserve grade grand final.
Even then the tension was greater between Shaun and Mrs O'Loan than it ever was between Blake and Shaun.
While the relationship between father and son is strong, it doesn't mean they have divulged any footy secrets to each other this week.
"He keeps everything tight to his chest," Blake said of Shaun.
"He talks everything down.
"He knows what he's doing."
Which means we'll have to wait until 3pm tomorrow to find out exactly what the 2012 model Eagles are like.
"It'll be the same," Blake said with the air of one who has regularly been pummelled by Eagles teams down the years.
"Big boys straight up the middle. They'll be solid up the middle and when they get field position, they'll move it to the edge."
Shaun was keen to ensure everyone knows his team are the underdogs. "Brothers are the form team, having lost only one of the last six grand finals," he said.
Blake himself won't be burdened with complexities as Brothers follow the Heath McQueen school of keeping it simple.
"The same old game plan," Blake said. "We'll stick to the basics pretty much. We don't want to over-complicate things."
He knows there is no point in it.
Nor is there any point worrying about what Goodna might bring to the clash.
"In the first couple of weeks, you concentrate on your own backyard," Blake said.
"Because if you're not playing good football, it doesn't matter what others are doing."
It will be a big test for Brothers five-eighth Sam Krueger, who gets the chance to establish himself at number six as the long-term replacement for Fili Notoa.
Shane Picker also finds himself in the spotlight in his first game since leaving Swifts, starting at centre alongside last year's leading try scorer Brooke Alofipo.
As for Goodna, we'll have to wait and see.