Crowley the best tagger in the business
Last year Ryan Crowley’s career was at the crossroads. It seemed he was destined to head back to his native Victoria, perhaps to be picked up by another team or to play out his career in the VFL.
He had fallen out of favour with then-Dockers coach Mark Harvey.
Even when the Dockers were struggling to field a team, Crowley had no guarantee of retaining his spot, something he publicly declared before lining up for his 100th career game.
Crowley’s debut game in 2005 was remarkable in that he kicked three goals against Geelong in Fremantle’s first every win in Geelong.
Despite playing 19 games in 2011 Crowley was shopped around for a trade, with Essendon at one stage showing interest.
After the tumultuous exit of Mark Harvey, Ross Lyon approached Crowley and encouraged him that there was a place in the seniors for him.
He also advised him to lose some weight. By all reports Crowley changed his diet, revelled in a more aerobic weights program and lost nine kilograms.
Crowley came to national attention after Gary Ablett made his feelings known, tweeting that Crowley should play the ball not the man during Fremantle’s loss to Carlton on the Friday night stage.
Yet Crowley’s impressive shut-down role on Carlton captain Chris Judd that night caused Eagles coach John Worsfold to state “I’ve been impressed with Ryan and what he’s achieved in his footy career through some pretty dark days early on.”
The truth is Crowley has had to work hard at making his mark on the AFL moreso than players blessed with natural skill.
While some critics decry the tactics of taggers, Crowley deserves recognition as the AFL’s best at the art.
While many would have expected his first job to be on Cotchin, it may have not gladdened Brett Deledio when he saw the Dockers hard man coming to him.
Deledio was restricted to only 15 possessions, not many of which were telling.
That was the lowest possession count Deledio has had for over three years.
Restricting the movement of the ball into Richmond’s forward line went a long way to helping the Dockers win against Richmond.
Ross Lyon was asked on the weekend whether Crowley was the best tagger in the AFL and his response was telling.
“I thought Ryan Crowley played with fantastic spirit, but what’s important when you have those roles is that it’s a total team effort,” Lyon said.
“So Ryan’s been doing some good jobs, but the team has really grown in the area of covering opposition dangerous midfielders so it’s a combination of Ryan and the team.”
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