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Crow 'kids' among elite

Katrina Gill  August 30, 2017 10:16 PM

Matt Crouch: All Australian Matt Crouch has earned selection in the 2017 All Australian Team. Have a look at some of his highlights from the year
AFL 2017 Round 06 - Adelaide v Richmond

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Matt Crouch of the Crows celebrates a goal with team mate Rory Laird during the 2017 AFL round 06 match between the Adelaide Crows and the Richmond Tigers at Adelaide Oval on April 30, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by AFL Media)

It’s a really good position for the Club to be in, in terms of a lot of our team being young and already playing a lot of games together

Adelaide is well placed for success now and in the future, says All Australian defender Rory Laird.

Laird, 23, and Crows teammate Matt Crouch, 22, were two of the youngest players selected in the 2017 Virgin Australia AFL All Australian team on Wednesday night.

Laird was named on a half-back flank, while Crouch was included on the interchange.

Remarkably, Laird has been included in the 40-man squad in three of his five seasons in the AFL.

He was overlooked for the final teams in 2015 and 2016, and was thrilled to make the cut this year.

“It’s pretty surreal. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Laird said.

“It’s very humbling and it’s an honour to stand up there and represent the Adelaide footy club.”

Laird is another of Adelaide’s rookie list success stories.

The West Adelaide junior was passed up in the 2010 National Draft, slipping to the Crows’ first pick in the Rookie Draft the following month.

The small but fearless defender has been a mainstay in the team since making his debut in 2013 and is on track to play his 100th game in Adelaide’s second final.

Laird said it was a positive sign for the Club that promising players like Matt and Brad Crouch (23), Rory Atkins (23), Jake Lever (21), Jake Kelly (22), Charlie Cameron (23), Riley Knight (22), Mitch McGovern (22) and Wayne Milera Junior (19), were already playing regular senior football.

“We’ve got a good, young team,” he said.

“I know most of our backline is under (the age of) 25 and a lot of the midfielders are too.

“We’ve got Brad and Matt Crouch in there, Hugh Greenwood (25) isn’t that old, and Wayne and ‘Rat’ (Atkins).

“It’s a really good position for the Club to be in, in terms of a lot of our team being young and already playing a lot of games together.”

Matt Crouch is only 69 games into his AFL career.

The left-footer cemented his spot last year and has quickly elevated himself to the game’s elite.

In his fourth season, Crouch is averaging 33 disposals, five tackles and six clearances.

He was second for in the League for total disposals (726) in the minor round behind another All Australian Tom Mitchell (787).

Crouch also finished top 10 in the competition for contested possessions (294), hard-ball gets (130), loose-ball gets (97) and handball receives (350) in the home and away season.

He was the second-youngest of the 2017 All Australian crop behind Essendon's Zach Merrett (21).

“I didn’t think I’d make All Australian, but it’s exciting just that I got in … and to be in the team as well as ‘Lairdy’ and Eddie is very good,” Crouch said.

“My goal was just to improve on the season I had last year. My fitness has improved a fair bit. Playing more games and just getting experience out there, you build a lot of confidence.

“It’s obviously been a good year for the boys and hopefully we can continue that going forward.”

Matt amassed a career-high 45 disposals against West Coast in Round 23, combining with older brother Brad (42 disposals) to smash two records.

The pair eclipsed the mark for most combined disposals by brothers in a game and also in a home and away season.

Their combined 87 disposals against the Eagles took Matt and Brad to 1,202 disposals for the season, passing Port Adelaide’s Cornes brothers who collected 1,174 disposals between them in 2007.

“I’d seen some stuff on Twitter (about the record leading into the game) but that was about it,” Matt said.

“I don’t think it was really front of mind for either of us! We found a bit of the footy, fortunately, but we didn’t know how many we’d had.

“I think you more so know when you haven’t had a lot of the ball and you’re struggling!”

Fellow 2017 All Australian Eddie Betts was full of praise for Laird and Crouch.

He even suggested the latter could be a contender for another major award in the coming weeks.

“I’m very proud of the both of them,” Betts said.

“Matty Crouch is an absolute superstar ball magnet. He knows where to run and is very clean.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a smoky for the Brownlow.”

Laird follows backline teammates and good friends Daniel Talia and Brodie Smith in receiving an All Australian blazer.

Smith’s helpful advice to Laird before Wednesday night was not to “trip” walking on stage.

“Maybe, if ‘Smithy’ annoys me a little bit I can sort of match him now!” Laird said. 

“He’s always had that (All Australian) over me, so it’s nice to have that back on him.”