Matt Crouch says there’s no room for complacency in the crowded Crows midfield.
Crouch, 20, overcame an injury-interrupted pre-season to play 17 AFL games in 2015, including the last eight in succession. The left-footer averaged 21 possessions, four clearances and three tackles, and received the Mark Bickley Emerging Talent award at the Crows Club Champion presentation.
Over the offseason, Adelaide farewelled best and fairest winner Patrick Dangerfield, but gained a fit Brad Crouch as well as another up-and-coming onballer in Sturt teenager Dean Gore. All Australian Scott Thompson is enjoying his best pre-season in years, while the likes of Mitch Grigg, Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Jarryd Lyons remain hungry for greater opportunities.
Entering his third AFL season, Matt Crouch knows his spot in the AFL team isn’t secured.
“You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself,” Crouch said.
“Hopefully, this year I can really play some consistent footy throughout the year, but I know there’s a lot of depth in our midfield too.
“I’m always going to be kept on my toes, that’s for sure.”
Crouch’s primary aim since being selected by Adelaide with pick No.23 in the 2013 AFL National Draft has been improving his endurance.
The contested ball winner believes he’s made significant inroads in this area, which will be important following the AFL’s decision to reduce the interchange cap to 90 this season.
“For me it (the pre-season) was about my fitness and trying to get that up to a level that’s acceptable for the AFL (midfield)," he said.
“I’ve come a long way (since I was drafted), I reckon. My body has changed a fair bit. The fitness staff have been really good ever since I got to the Club.
“I need to keep improving, but I think it’s getting better.”
Crouch missed all of last year’s NAB Challenge series after injuring his ankle at training.
He started last season in the SANFL, made to wait until Round Six to earn an opportunity at AFL level. Like many of his teammates, Crouch hopes to use this year’s pre-season competition as a springboard into the Premiership Season.
“It’s good that the pre-season has finished and we’re starting to get into some games,” he said.
“I felt like I had a pretty consistent pre-season. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the NAB Challenge. I want to play some consistent footy and, hopefully, find form early in the year.
“It’d be nice to get a bit of the ball, but also to work on the things we’ve trained (as a team) over the pre-season and translate that into games.”
Crouch started as the substitute in nearly a quarter of his AFL games last season.
He joined the majority of players and supporters in rejoicing when the rule was abolished for 2016.
“Thank God!” he said.
“I was the sub a fair bit over the last couple of years. I think ‘JL’ (Lyons) was the one who (started) the most as the sub, but it’s very good news.”
The younger Crouch sibling is also enjoying another offseason change.
He recently moved in with brother Brad and another mate from his native Ballarat.
“We (Brad and I) have had a few arguments so far, but it hasn’t been too bad,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s been good fun.”
Crouch and the Crows squad were in Clare and South Australia’s Mid North on Monday and Tuesday as part of the Club’s 2016 Australia Post Community Camp.
Growing up in country Victoria, Crouch – a former North Melbourne fan – was visited by the likes of Brent Harvey and Wayne Carey. He said it was important AFL clubs gave back to the community.
“Being a country boy, when I was young I used to love seeing AFL player and my heroes come out to Ballarat,” Crouch said.
“All the boys know how important it is to get out to the country … to help out and have a bit of fun.”