Nathan van Berlo has been reappointed skipper of the Crows, with new joint vice-captains Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane to share the captaincy duties on-field in van Berlo’s absence.
Van Berlo, 27, is expected to spend about six months on the sidelines after rupturing his Achilles tendon at training in mid-January. The hard-working and highly-respected skipper, who sets the standard for training and professionalism at Adelaide, is aiming for a return to the field by August.
Involved with the leadership group since 2008, van Berlo officially took over from Simon Goodwin ahead of the 2011 season and has captained the Club in 68 games.
Coach Brenton Sanderson said the selection panel, which sought input from coaches, senior players and members of the Club’s management, was undivided in its support for van Berlo to continue in the role in 2014.
“After comprehensive discussions, in which we assessed allthe options, we were unanimous in the decision that Nathan is the best leaderof our footy club. He’s the standout,” Sanderson said.
"We’d reached that decision prior to ‘VB’ gettinginjured. After Nathan was injured, we thought he could still do a fantastic jobin leading the Club off the field.
“In the best case scenario, hopefully, we get him backmid-season anyway.”
Dangerfield and Sloane, both 23-years-old, have shared similar career paths to-date.
The influential midfielders were elevated to the Crows leadership group together ahead of the 2012 season, and have established themselves as elite players in the competition since that time.
A deputy vice-captain in 2013, Dangerfield is a two-time All Australian (2012, 2013). The explosive game-breaker has also finished top-five in the Crows Club Champion award for the past three years. Originally recruited with pick No.10 in the 2007 AFL National Draft, Dangerfield has played 109 games since making his debut in 2008.
Sloane backed up a breakout year in 2012, where he finished third in Club Champion voting, with a best-and-fairest winning season in 2013. Selected with pick No.44 in the 2008 AFL Draft, the hard-running and immensely popular Crow made his debut in 2009 and has played 78 matches.
Sanderson said sharing the acting captaincy would be invaluable experience for Dangerfield and Sloane, whose different leadership styles will complement each other.
“Patrick and Rory are both developing into outstanding leaders,” Sanderson said.
“They’ve exhibited an enormous amount of great leadership in the two years I’ve been at the Club and they’ve gone to another level again this summer. We feel they’ll do a fantastic job as acting captains, with the assistance of Nathan while he’s on the sidelines.
“If there’s any silver lining in Nathan’s injury, it’s that these two 23-year-olds get exposed to on-field captaincy roles, perhaps, a bit earlier than they otherwise would have.”
Forward Taylor Walker and 2010 Club Champion Richard Douglas have been given official leadership roles group for the first time in 2014 rounding out a seven-man group, which also includes existing members Scott Thompson and Sam Jacobs.
Walker’s inclusion highlights his positive impact on the playing group both on and away from the football field. The talented 23-year-old has maintained a strong presence throughout his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury.
“Taylor is naturally a fantastic leader of our group,” Sanderson said.
“We’ve seen him really mature in the last 18 months. Even while he’s been injured, he’s been fantastic. He hasn’t put a foot wrong with his rehab and has showed an enormous amount of maturity.
“With Walker, Dangerfield, Sloane and Jacobs, we’ve got a great band of 23-24-year-olds, who are the future of our footy Club and are showing great signs of leadership already.”
Douglas, 26, has been included following a brilliant 2013 season in which he finished runner-up to Sloane in the Crows Club Champion award.
“In what was a disappointing season for us, ‘Dougy’ was one guy who really stood up and led from the front, so it was a no-brainer for us to put him in the leadership group. He’ll add to the mix of the group,” Sanderson said.
A two-time All-Australian and Crows Club Champion, Thompson was acting captain for three games last season when van Berlo was sidelined with injury. He will continue to provide strong leadership and support for the group.
“Thommo has been great and he’s an integral part of our leadership group,” Sanderson said.
“To his credit, when we told him we were heading the way of having Dangerfield and Sloane as vice-captains he said, ‘that’s a great decision. I’m going to really support those guys because they’re the future of our Club’. It just shows his maturity and how much he wants the team to succeed.”2014 Leadership Group
Nathan van Berlo (Captain)
Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane (Joint vice-captains)