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Recruiting Files: Crouch

Classy Crow a Rising Star Adelaide Crow Brad Crouch is the round 14 NAB AFL Rising Star
We loved the fact that Brad was a knockabout, competitive, old school footy, good bloke.
Hamish Ogilvie

National Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie delves into the draft background of emerging midfielder Brad Crouch.

Brad Crouch entered the AFL system as a teenager, but not in the conventional manner. The Beaufort teenager was too young to be drafted in 2011, but was eligible to be selected in the 17-year-old ‘mini-draft’ – one of the trade incentives afforded to newcomers Greater Western Sydney. The Crows first considered the idea of trading for the rights to Crouch after seeing him play for the North Ballarat Rebels in the 2011 TAC Cup season …

“We’d watched Brad at the Under-16 National Championships and his performance was very solid. We watched him that year (2010), just as we watched dozens of other 16-year-olds, and we liked what we saw.

“He started the 2011 season really well too. The day I knew we were really going to push to get into the mini-draft was when I went and watched Brad play down at Warrnambool. He had close to 40 possessions and kicked three goals in the last quarter against Geelong – playing at half-back. He was just outstanding. That game told us that Brad was certainly worth looking at as one of the guys eligible for the 17-year-old mini-draft. “

But Crouch’s draft year (2011) was not without its setbacks …

“Brad also played at half-back for Vic Country at the Under-18 National Championships that season. He played another classy, smart, ball use game against South Australia at Adelaide Oval, but then he broke his leg and didn’t play for a while.

“One day, we were out watching TAC Cup games at Carlton late in the year and Brad, who was still on the comeback from injury, was doing 200m sprints right in front of us. Before the game and again at half-time, he was doing extra running. We knew he was fit and had a bit of go about him because he was working really hard. From that, we deduced that Brad would be able to train at AFL level. He showed he could push himself on his own as a 17-year-old. We were really impressed by that extra work.”

Ogilvie and the Crows recruiting staff were also impressed by the skilful ball winner’s demeanour away from the football field …

“We loved the fact that Brad was a knockabout, competitive, old school footy, good bloke, who our players would enjoy having at the Club. And that’s very important; that our own players will love having this guy in their team.

“Brad had played sport all his life. He’d played local footy at Beaufort, and played men’s footy really early on. The whole Crouch family is fantastic. Phil, Debbie and Brad’s younger brother Matt are good, down to earth people and we built a great rapport with them.

“They are a good country sporting family. Brad’s dad coached a lot and is an experienced teacher. Matty’s as tough as teak; a good footballer and a really good wicketkeeper as well. He played district cricket in Melbourne at an early age and Brad was actually a really good fast bowler.

“We also had a good relationship with Phil Partington, who was Brad’s regional manager, so we knew a lot about Brad. It was easy background research because we liked everything we found out.”

So, the Crows were sold on Crouch. Now they had to do the deal with GWS …

“We knew we had the ammunition to get into the frame because we had the Phil Davis compensation pick and GWS wanted to get it back. Gold Coast offered a bit more to get Jaeger O’Meara, but we were more than happy to have Brad. There’s not a lot of difference between them really. I know Jaeger’s had a lot of media, but they have a lot of similarities.

“If we could get pick No.2, we wanted to take Brad and GWS were happy to work with us.”

The 17-year-old ‘mini-draft’ allowed the Crows, who previously held pick No.10 in the 2011 National Draft, to get into a position they’d never been before, with the ability to access the cream of the AFL talent crop …

“Brad would’ve gone in the top four or five if he went into the National Draft. He’s effectively the highest draft pick in the history of our Club and we never would’ve been in a position to secure Brad, or a talent like him, if we hadn’t have traded into the mini-draft.

“We were also able to get Luke Brown as part of the same deal. Giving up pick No.10 and No.13 (first-round compensation pick) for Crouch and Brown is looking like a pretty good deal. We never wanted to lose Phil Davis, but we were able to turn a bad situation at the time into a positive.”

Because Crouch was under the AFL draft age, he was ineligible to play senior football for Adelaide in 2012. But he was able to train and learn in an AFL environment and benefited from a season playing against mature bodies in the SANFL …

“It’s a really good way to do it, having a young draftee at your Club learning the ropes. All the boys taken as 17-year-olds the past couple of years are extremely talented; Brad Crouch, Jaeger O’Meara, Jesse Hogan and Jack Martin. They’re all doing really well at senior level now. I think it’s a perfect way of bringing them into the system.”

Crouch has impressed in his first AFL season, forging his place in the Crows midfield … maybe, ahead of schedule …

“Brad is very good at a lot of things and doesn’t have any real deficiencies in his game. We loved him at half-back as a junior. We actually thought he’d play across half-back in his first couple of years at AFL level, setting up the play back there before going into the midfield later in his career.

“But the coaching staff have seen enough to put him straight into the midfield and he’s done pretty well, especially for a young player.”