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In the Words of: Brad Crouch

Brad Crouch and coach Brenton Sanderson
Recruit Brad Crouch's first year at the Club in his own words...

When I arrived at the Club, I knew I couldn’t play AFL the entire first year. I got my head around that fact pretty quickly and I’ve loved just being involved. I love the Club and being part of the team’s success even though I’m not in the side.

Given I didn’t think I’d play in the senior team at all this year, it was great the AFL gave me permission to play in the NAB Cup. I played one game against the Brisbane Lions in Alice Springs. It was nice to get a little sniff and probably put me in good stead to go back and play good football at my SANFL club, West Adelaide.

During the week, I train with the Crows right up until Thursday night when I either go and train with West, or head out to their team meeting. I love playing for Westies. It’s been good getting to know all the blokes and it’s been a great club to come into. The SANFL competition itself is great. They say it’s the second-best comp in Australia and it’s good to be exposed to senior footy at my age.

I’ve only been injured a few times in my short career. I tore my hamstring off the bone when I was 14-years-old and needed surgery. I hurt my hamstring playing for Westies earlier this season and the Club was really conservative with my rehabilitation.

I missed about two months of footy, but it’s all good now. I’ve done a lot of prevention work. I’m trying to get my body as close to bulletproof as I can similar to someone like Scott Thompson. ‘Thommo’ is just so fit and strong he doesn’t get injured or miss games.

I’d never really been in rehab before. But when I hurt my hamstring I realised how hard it is both mentally and physically. I did a fair few ‘biathlons’, which involve swimming and also training on the versa climber. You swim as far as you can in five minutes and then get on the versa climber for five minutes.

You rotate between the two activities six times, totalling 60 minutes. They call it an ‘hour of power’ and I did that five or six times. I also did a heap of upper-body and leg weights to help strengthen my back and hamstrings.
Rehab is pretty tough and you realise soon enough that you don’t want to spend any more time in there in the future, so that’s why you put so much work into prevention.

Through the rehab phase I put on a couple of kilograms and all up I’ve added about six kilos since I got here.

The emphasis on being consistent at training has probably been the biggest learning curve for me this year. As a kid, I’d go out to training just to have a kick and because I loved going. At AFL level, there’s a real demand to train hard - and consistently hard - every day you’re at the Club. I’ve made that a real focus of mine, and I’m starting to find that consistency at training.

I’m also pretty strict on doing everything right when it comes to recovery. I want to be as professional as I can throughout the week, so I can get up for a game and play well.

The transition off the field has been really good too. The Club has made it easy for me. My host family, Sav and Maria Ruggiero and also their son Anthony, who is a trainer here, have been exceptional. My girlfriend, Maggie, moved over from Ballarat in January and she’s adapted well too, so I’ve been really lucky. The move has been 100 times easier than what I anticipated.

My parents and younger brother, Matt, are back home in Ballarat. Matt represented Vic Country at the Under-18 Championships last month and did pretty well. He’s eligible to be drafted as a 17-year-old (through the Greater Western Sydney trade incentive) like I was. He might be a chance to be picked up by an AFL club this year and if not he’d be a pretty good chance the year after. It’d be great if we could get Matt traded to the Crows at some stage, so we could play together.

My brother and I were brought up on footy and cricket, and we don’t have too much interest in anything else!

When I’m not playing or training for footy, I like to watch footy - and anything to do with the game. Some people would say I watch too much.
I watch all the shows on Fox Footy and most of the matches.

I used to be worse. It was almost to the point that I couldn’t go to sleep on a Monday or Tuesday night if I hadn’t watched all eight (now nine) games. I’d watch as many games as I could over the weekend and then watch replays of the others on the Monday or Tuesday night.

It was a bit different when I was in rehab earlier this year. When everything is going right and you’re playing well, it’s good to watch heaps of footy. But when I was injured and couldn’t play, I had to get my mind off it a bit and get a balance.

Now, that I’m back playing I want to finish the season strongly. Westies are looking pretty good, so hopefully we can play a big part in the finals.

I’d also love to see the Crows play good finals footy this year. It would be great to see the boys have success even though I’m not part of it yet.

I’m focused on playing out the year well, but next season is always in the back of my mind. I think about the off and pre-seasons because that’s where you build your fitness base.

I’ll focus only on what I can control over the summer. I’ll try to put my best foot forward and then see how I go in the pre-season games. It’s an exciting time at the Club and I’m just rapt to be part of it.

This article first appeared in The Pride magazine in August