From given no hope to premiership fancies, it has been an extraordinary 18 months for the Adelaide Football Club, following the loss of star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield.
When Don Pyke walked through the doors in later 2015, following a season masked with tragedy and the loss of a star, nobody expected much from the Crows as, despite their attacking firepower, they ‘did not have the midfield depth to be a contender’.
Fast forward to now and that could not be further from the truth. Pyke’s men have started the year at 6-2 and are currently on top of the AFL ladder.
So, what can we put this form turnaround down to?
Many would go with the juggernaut which is Adelaide’s forward line, the emergence of midfielder Rory Sloane into one of the competition’s best players, or even the young guns that make up Adelaide’s solid defensive unit.
I have chosen to go with a different angle, as despite all the press that has been associated with this team, people tend to forget about the one aspect which many saw as Adelaide’s downfall.
That is the emergence of their young midfielders, which has been led by Ballarat-born Matt Crouch and his ability to win the ball.
Selected with pick 23, which Adelaide received in 2013 from Melbourne for favourite son Bernie Vince, many people questioned whether they were forced to trade away a solid best 22 player for an unknown.
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Along with being the younger brother of Brad Crouch, the weight of the world was on Matt’s shoulders, as he was expected to slot into the side and perform to a similar level to his brother.
This would not be the case, as in his first season Crouch only played eight games, with an average of 16.5 disposals per game and a Rising Star nomination. Although not featuring massively in his debut season, Crouch did show signs of becoming a solid contributor that can find the ball at will.
Fast forward three seasons to Matt’s fourth as an AFL player and we are beginning to see his All Australian potential. With an average of 21.0 disposals in 2015, 27.7 disposals in 2016 and 33.0 disposals thus far in 2017, Crouch’s development has been extremely promising.
In 2017, Crouch has taken his game to another level, as his uncanny ability to find the football has him ranked second in the AFL for total disposals. Labelled as the ‘replacement for Scott Thompson’, Crouch has also developed into a leader at the club, as alongside Rory Sloane he has managed to transform Adelaide’s midfield into one of the competition’s best.
Even last weekend, when the Crows were smashed all over by North Melbourne, Crouch was still able to provide a solid contribution with his 37 disposals serving as the only true resistance against the rampaging Roos. In a team filled with flashy stars, Crouch’ consistency is critical.
Crouch is the footballer every team wants, a hardworking kid dedicated to mastering his craft and becoming a key part of success at the highest level.
So, with the Crows perched atop the AFL ladder and a push for the premiership coming in the not too distant future, Crouch will be a critical piece to Don Pyke’s rising team.