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Keath comes full circle

Katrina Gill  July 22, 2017 3:07 PM

Alex Keath Post-Match: R18 AFC Media speak to debutant Alex Keath after our Round 18 win v Geelong.
He probably could’ve been a wicket keeper for Victoria or even Australia if he had pursued it

Alex Keath’s AFL debut saw the talented sportsman’s career come full circle, and reunited him with a Crows teammate from his cricketing days.

As a 17-year-old, Keath – an AFL Academy member – knocked back an opportunity to be part of the fledgling Gold Coast Suns to pursue his cricketing dream.

The all-rounder represented Australia at the Under-19 World Cup, played first class cricket for Victoria and also made a couple of appearances for the Melbourne Stars in the popular Twenty20 format.

Crows midfielder Matt Crouch was faced with a similar decision in his teenage years.

A promising wicket keeper and handy batsman, Crouch made the Melbourne Cricket Club’s First XI at just 15 years of age.

The North Ballarat junior played several matches for the ‘Demons’ alongside Keath who was three years his senior.

But when it came time for Crouch to make a call between cricket and football, he took the other path.

After averaging 37 disposals in the TAC Cup, Crouch was selected by the Crows in the 2013 National Draft.

On Friday night, Keath and Crouch took the field together again in Adelaide’s 21-point win over Geelong.

“Matty was a star. He probably could’ve been a wicket keeper for Victoria or even Australia if he had pursued it,” Keath said of the younger Crouch sibling.

“It was special to play with him tonight.”

Keath’s debut against the Cats, which made him the first man in many years to achieve a career double of playing AFL football and first-class cricket, completed a remarkable comeback to the sport.

The Shepparton product only quit cricket to focus on football full-time 18 months ago.

He excited the Crows by being best on ground in his SANFL debut last April despite a limited pre-season because of his cricket commitments.

This year, Keath was named co-captain of the Club’s SANFL side alongside fellow sport-swapper Hugh Greenwood.

The duo lined up in the same team against Geelong, becoming the first Category-B rookies to do so for the Crows.

Crouch said Keath had a “big future” in the game.

“I’m not really surprised with what he (Keath) has done,” Crouch said.

“He’s had very good SANFL form and he’s been able to back that up tonight and play in the AFL.

“I thought he was great. He defended really well and he was composed with the footy.

“I think he’s going to be a good player for us.”

In front of a packed Adelaide Oval, Keath displayed the cool head that gave the Crows match committee the confidence to pick him in such a big occasion.

The 198cm, 98kg, utility used the ball well when he got it and had 12 ‘one-percenters’ (behind only All Australian defender Daniel Talia for the game) including some timely spoils and strong tackles.

He was outpointed by Geelong 200-gamer and premiership star Harry Taylor in a few contests, but overall coach Don Pyke was pleased by Keath’s first game at senior level.

“I thought it was a good debut,” Pyke said.

“He did some good things. He got out-marked a couple of times, but that’s going to happen to young players and especially young defenders.

“I thought a couple of efforts where he took some intercept marks and hit some hard spoils, that’s what we liked about him.

“He’s a competitive guy. If he was going to get beaten, he was going to get beaten having a red-hot go.”

Keath found it difficult to put the experience into words after the game, admitting he never expected to make his senior debut so soon after returning to the game.

“It’s amazing. I’ve just tried to work hard and to buy into the culture as best I could. An opportunity came and I’m very grateful to play my first game,” he said.

“It was incredible out there, to play in such a high-intensity game. The boys played so well and our pressure was awesome for the first half.

“It was fantastic to come away with the win.”

Despite his success since switching back to the Sherrin, the 25-year-old said he wouldn’t change a thing in his impressive sporting career.

“I’m very fortunate to have had the experiences that I’ve had,” he said.

“To be involved in a night like this is very special.”