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Recruiting Files: Matt Crouch

Katrina Gill  November 19, 2015 5:07 PM

AFL 2015 Second Elimination Final - Western Bulldogs v Adelaide

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Taylor Walker (right) hugs Matt Crouch of the Crows after the 2015 AFL Second Elimination Final match between the Western Bulldogs and the Adelaide Crows at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia on September 12, 2015. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

We were apprehensive as to whether he would get to pick No.23 or not.

National Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie recalls how Matt Crouch followed in his older brother’s footsteps in becoming a Crow …

The younger brother of Brad Crouch, who joined Adelaide at the end of 2011, Matt was well known to the Crows recruiters by the time his draft year rolled around …

We probably met Matt when he was 14 or 15-years-old. He’d been in the footy pathway because he was such a good player at a young age. We started to spend more time with him in his 17th (2012) and 18th (2013) years, but because of the connection with Brad we already knew him pretty well.

When we were interviewing Brad, Matt was always around. If we were at the Crouch home in Ballarat, Matt was in the other room and if we met up in Melbourne, Matt would quite often be there as well because he was playing district cricket and his Mum and Dad would drive him down to the city. After we recruited Brad, Matt would sometimes come to Adelaide during school holidays. We were probably ‘interviewing’ him lots of times when he didn’t realise it!

By the time his draft year came, we’d done most of the work.

Matt played senior footy for local club Beaufort Crows, taking on grown men as a 16-year-old …

Knowing Matt, he wouldn’t have taken a backwards step. It’s been well documented how competitive he and Brad are. There was never any doubt that we were getting a competitor. Matt could dominate TAC Cup footy as a 17-year-old off no pre-season because he’d been playing cricket all summer. Finding the ball and clean ball take have never been issues for him. What you see is what you get with Matt.

Matt juggled footy and cricket as a teenager. The gifted sportsmen played some first-grade games of Premier Cricket in Melbourne when he was only 15. He played Under-17 representative cricket and had a bright future in the sport, but decided to pursue footy …

As the draft got closer, Matt still played some cricket but not at such a high level. He was wicket keeper for Melbourne’s first-grade team as a 15-year-old. He might’ve even been next in line behind (Australian cricket representative) Matthew Wade to keep for Victoria if he’d stuck with cricket.

His career path was a bit like Matty Wade’s because Matty Wade was a good junior footballer as well. Matty Wade chose cricket and Matty Crouch chose footy, but they both found a way to get out of pre-season training! I wonder if Matty Wade taught Matt Crouch that because he was the world champion of getting out of pre-season training! Matt Crouch had never done a full pre-season when we drafted him.

A natural ball winner, Crouch played seven TAC Cup games for a struggling North Ballarat side in 2013. He averaged an incredible 37 disposals (16 contested), seven clearances and five tackles. But he wasn’t the only ball magnet in the draft pool …

The interesting thing about 2013 was that it was a really good midfielders draft and inside midfielders, in particular. It was very competitive. You had the likes of Matt Crouch, George Hewett, Patrick Cripps, Trent Dumont and Luke Dunstan. They were all very similar and at a high level. They were incredibly difficult to split.

We spent hours and hours as a recruiting group agonising over which one was best. If one player was a bit stronger in a certain area, another was a little bit stronger in a different area. We had every piece of data working to try and split them. In some cases, it was .02 or .03 separating them. 

They were so close and they’ve all been good. Patty Cripps has obviously been the standout and he ended up going well before our pick (to Carlton at No.13). George Hewett hasn’t played AFL yet, but he’s been a good player for Sydney in the NEAFL. Matt and Luke Dunstan have been good AFL players so far.

The Crows, who had been stripped of their first and second-round draft picks as part of the sanctions from the Kurt Tippett contract investigation, knew they would have to trade out a player – and a good one – to get back in the early part of the draft and have a chance of securing one of the talented onballers. The Club made the difficult decision to part ways with Club Champion and fan favourite, Bernie Vince. Vince accepted an offer from Melbourne and the Crows received pick No.23 in exchange …

We knew we would get a really good player if we did the deal, or we wouldn’t have done it. Whether that player was going to be Matt or not, we weren’t quite sure at the time … we were apprehensive as to whether he would get to pick No.23. It was a strong draft and regardless of whether you needed an inside midfielder, the guys I mentioned were just so good that you had to consider them.

I think it’s worked out well. Bernie has been fantastic and won another best and fairest and Matt is on the way, and looks like he’s going to have a good career. Bernie is still friends with everyone here and always says, ‘G-day’. He hasn’t forgotten where he came from and we won’t forget his contribution to our Club.

After a nervous wait, Ogilvie read out Crouch’s name and ID number with Adelaide’s first pick in the 2013 National Draft. The Crows recruiters paid a visit to the ecstatic family the next day …

Matt wasn’t at the draft, but our players and coaches called him that night and had a chat. We went around to the Crouch house the next day. They were all really happy.

His Mum, Deb, had a premonition or a dream that Matt would get to us but she never told us that before the draft. I’m not sure we can factor that into our analytics anywhere, that Mum had a dream!

Matt was happy, but I think he was also a little bit apprehensive about coming over because he knew what it was going to be like. He knew it was going to be hot and how hard everyone here trains. We had a good afternoon and then got him organised to come over. Phil dropped him at the airport, I think Brad and ‘Tex’ picked him up and that was that.

Two years on, Matt has played 25 AFL games and earned a Rising Star nomination. He’s preparing to enter his third AFL (and third-ever) pre-season and is ready to establish himself in Adelaide’s engine room …

His body shape is completely different now to what it was when we drafted him. He’s a far different athlete. I think if you asked Matt, he’d tell you how much he’s learned since he’s been here but he’s had some pretty good role models in Nathan van Berlo, Rory Sloane and Scott Thompson etc. He’s got the will and determination. It’s just a matter of how much he can learn and work with our development guys and coaches to improve now.