The art of tagging helped shape the career of former Adelaide midfielder Robert Shirley.

The former No. 12, who’s AFL career spanned across nine seasons with the Crows, was a specialist tagger, responsible for shutting down players like Chris Judd and Gary Ablett Jnr.

In the 13 years since Shirley hung up his AFL boots, the role has somewhat faded out, with coaches preferring to focus on team defence.

Speaking on the latest episode of The Crows Radio Show, Shirley said he believed there was still room in the modern game for hard tags to be placed on opposition midfielders.

But the 151-gamer said it looked like most coaches weren’t keen on bringing it back.

“That was more my role, to shut them down as much as possible, and then secondary was to find the footy,” Shirley said.

“But I think today’s game is a lot more (about) zoning in the defence of sides and that came about towards the end of my career.

“We went to that 18-man press which affected my game and my opportunities to go out there week-by-week.

“I’m sure there is still some kind of defensive play for the midfielders but it’s more that those midfielders are a lot more attacking than the traditional tag that we used to run with.

“These days it’s probably a run with and that midfielder is there to win possessions and be attacking as well as negate.”

“I’m sure there is still some kind of defensive play for the midfielders.

Shirley, now 42, was drafted by the Crows from Woodville-West Torrens with Pick No.67 at the 1999 National Draft but was delisted after playing 21 AFL games in his first three seasons.

Despite that, he stayed with the Club as a rookie and made the most of a mid-season promotion in 2004.

In 2005, Shirley became the Club’s main tagger and he missed just one game as the Crows returned to finals.

Upon reflecting on his AFL career, Shirley said he enjoyed being part of a successful era in the Club’s history and worked hard to perfect the art of tagging.

“It was a huge buzz, we bombed out early in my first couple of years and then built back up, made a Prelim final in ‘02, and then with the change over to (Neil) Craigy, we got back up there in ‘05/06,” he said.

“I think we were minor premiers at least one of those years.

“We were playing a great brand of footy, really fast, and I think Craigy’s game plan was something new to the AFL at that stage and we were probably the measuring stick with West Coast and Sydney.

“It was an interesting competition and it was just a shame we didn’t quite make a Grand Final.

“A huge amount of preparation goes into every player you play against each week in terms of video, in terms of where the opposition ruckman hits the ball.

“Plus I had Simon Goodwin, Andrew McLeod, Mark Ricciuto and Tyson Edwards around me, so that helped a lot as well.”

Shirley, who now lives on the Eyre Peninsula in Cummins, still follows the Crows and tries to get over to Adelaide “two to three times a year” to watch the side play.

Tune in to Triple M Adelaide this Sunday at 9am for the next instalment of Sauce and Thomo.