When Ben Keays found himself without an AFL Club at the end of the 2019 season, he spent little time feeling sorry for himself.

Keays, who had just been delisted by his childhood Club, Brisbane, was determined to turn any disappointment into an opportunity. 

“Anyone who has been in that situation would no doubt have thoughts that maybe they might not be lucky enough to get picked up again,” Keays told AFC Media.

“I hadn’t played regularly for two years, so I kind of knew the writing was on the wall, so it wasn’t much of a shock to be in that situation in the end.

“I saw it more as an opportunity to end up somewhere else and get that fresh start.

“I always had faith, I always kept doing the work and I would just remind myself that all the work might not pay off in the short-term, but hopefully there would be a long-term pay-off.”

After being given a lifeline by Adelaide for the start of the 2020 AFL season, Keays has gone from strength to strength at his new Club… but being re-drafted in 2020 wasn’t without its challenges.

And for Keays, that was a tougher time than when the Lions delisted him.

“Even after I did get picked up by the Crows, it was such a relief but then Covid happened and we weren’t sure if we’d have a season, then if we were to have a season, there wouldn’t be much opportunity in the SANFL,” Keays said.

“That was the most challenging time to go through.

“I got my second chance but then there was a possibility I wouldn’t even get to show myself in the Crows colours.

“I am so grateful they picked me up and it worked out for me and that Nicksy had the faith in me to keep playing me so I was able to gain my confidence at AFL level.”

Fast forward four years and Keays has gone from strength to strength, not only finding himself in the leadership group as Vice Captain this year, but also fresh off signing a new, three-year contract extension this week.

I am so grateful they picked me up and it worked out for me.

“For the Club to have that faith in me to sign the new deal just means the world,” Keays said.

“Obviously the Crows gave me the chance back in 2020 when no other Clubw would, so I’ve tried to pay them back as much as possible.

“I feel like in SA, it almost feels like the whole state has their eyes on the Crows and are invested and really wants the Crows to succeed. 

“To have that fan base behind you is so special and that comes with pressure and expectation as well, but that’s why we play footy.”

With his fourth campaign with the Crows well underway, there is one thing that has remained consistent throughout his career - workrate. 

The midfielder/forward knows that without his strong desire to work hard and do everything to get the best out of himself, he might not be where he is today.

“It’s (workrate) was how I was able to get myself into the AFL in the first place,” Keays said.

“My non-negotiable is to work really hard, on the field work hard in offence and defence, but then off the field, it’s about doing all the little things, training hard and trying to get my body ready to play.”

Keays is coming off a three-goal, 20 disposals match against Carlton, having helped Adelaide secure its first win of 2024, and despite the Club’s slow start, he believes it is the start of some strong form.

That starts with the clash against Essendon at Adelaide Oval this Friday night.

“We are always confident and we have a chance to really write the wrongs from the start of the season,” Keays said.

“We did the work over the pre-season and the years prior, so we have a lot of work under our belt.”

The Crows play the Bombers at Adelaide Oval at 7.10pm.