City set to reap a fi­nan­cial bo­nanza

Sunday Mail - - BOUND FOR GRAND FINAL GLORY - RICHARD EARLE

Cup side at the time, but we’re play­ing this game and there was a hard ball there to be won. Long story short, ‘Nicko’ ended up miss­ing a TAC Cup game with a corky.”

The pair’s trade­mark phys­i­cal game style was honed from an early age – usu­ally at each oth­ers’ ex­pense, and wher­ever there was room to move.

“Oh, they were al­ways belt­ing shit out of each other,” Rebels tal­ent man­ager Phil Part­ing­ton says.

“Phil and Deb­bie tell the story about how the boys would put a footy in the mid­dle of the lounge­room and then they’d go back to op­po­site ends.

“They’d race in to get the footy and the aim was to get a hand­ball out be­fore one tack­led the other.

“That’s the way they were. Play­ing in the Bal­larat league when they were young, there would’ve been a lot of con­tested ball. Be­ing the com­pet­i­tive beasts they are, they would’ve liked to have been the per­son to dig the ball out of the mud and hand it back to the um­pires.

“That would’ve been drilled into them by Phil.”

Phil Crouch was coach­ing the Beau­fort Crows in 2010 when he made the de­ci­sion to give eldest son Brad, then 16 and play­ing with North Bal­larat in Victoria’s elite un­der-age sys­tem, a run in coun­try se­nior footy.

“The first rea­son was, they both wanted to,” Phil says. “They felt they could han­dle it.

“If they weren’t up to it you could see fairly quickly and I would’ve pulled the pin on it, but they en­joyed it.

“I played my first game of se­nior footy at 15. It doesn’t hap­pen a lot now but you hear about guys like (Bris­bane Lions le­gend) Jonathan Brown who played se­nior footy when they were 15 or 16.

“At the end of it I had this idea that when they went back to the TAC Cup that year of play­ing against the big­ger bod­ies prob­a­bly wasn’t a bad thing for them later on.”

Franc, who would coach Matt Crouch dur­ing the younger brother’s first sea­son of se­nior foot­ball in 2011, says it was ev­i­dent early that Brad was des­tined for more than a coun­try or sub­ur­ban ca­reer.

“I re­mem­ber one game against Daylesford, Brad was only 16,” Franc says.

“It was a wet, heavy day at Beau­fort. Daylesford were the reign­ing pre­miers and Brad went head to head in the mid­dle with the league medal­list at the time.

“Brad’s gone and kicked five goals – so that’s when we knew.

“Be­cause every town’s got a cou­ple, haven’t they? Kids that could be any­thing. You know they’ve got abil­ity, but un­til you’ve seen them against men you just don’t know if they’re go­ing to go on with it.

“When you see one do what Brad did that day, that’s when you go ‘oh, shit’.” The re­ac­tion was the same from 246-game Colling­wood great Shane O’Bree, Beau­fort’s long­est-serv­ing AFL ex­port, who lined up along­side Matt Crouch when he re­turned to his home town for a one-off game in 2011 fol­low­ing his 2010 re­tire­ment.

“I knew about the Crouch boys – their fa­ther had taught me in sec­ondary col­lege,” O’Bree says.

“I just re­mem­ber this young bloke at the bot­tom of the packs, feed­ing me (the ball) all day.

“I was tak­ing full ad­van­tage of it be­cause I wasn’t go­ing in to get hurt, that’s for sure. But Matt was right in there, hand­balling it out every time.

“You could see then he was a con­tested beast and he still is now.”

Franc says the Crouch broth­ers’ Beau­fort con­nec­tion and suc­cess on the na­tional stage sets a beam­ing ex­am­ple for young­sters in the town.

“It gives you some­thing to hang your hat on, that as a foot­ball club you’re set­ting up an en­vi­ron­ment that al­lows these kids to come through if they’re good enough,” he says.

“That’s the best thing – it shows the kids we’ve got at the club now that if they work hard and do the right thing, they can make it to the AFL, too.”

And while the Crouch broth­ers re­main in the hunt for an AFL premier­ship that would break Ade­laide’s 19-year sil­ver­ware drought, there was no fairy­tale end­ing for their beloved Beau­fort Crows in 2017.

Both the se­niors and re­serves lost their de­ciders, the B Grade los­ing by eight points to Buniny­ong be­fore the A Grade fell 18 points short of Hepburn. ADE­LAIDE is gear­ing up to host its big­gest AFL match in a decade when the Crows play Gee­long in the first pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal on Friday night.

The re­turn of for­mer team­mate Patrick Danger­field and Ade­laide’s quest to break a 19year ti­tle drought could threaten the Ade­laide Oval at­ten­dance record of 54,468, held by the 2015 Au­gust Show­down.

Danger­field, the Crows’ club cham­pion in his fi­nal year of 2015, will re­ceive a hot re­cep­tion since he tongue-incheek la­belled life in his for­mer city “not that good” af­ter kick­ing four goals in Friday night’s semi-fi­nal win against Syd­ney at the MCG.

Tourism Min­is­ter Leon Bignell said draw­ing Gee­long as Ade­laide’s op­po­nent was “a good re­sult” be­cause its fans were closer to Ade­laide.

“They’ll jump in their cars and drive over, through all those towns and spend money all the way along,” he said.

Mr Bignell said his depart­ment would send in­for­ma­tion about South Aus­tralian at­trac­tions to Gee­long Foot­ball Club to­mor­row to pass on to mem­bers.

“We can give them some ex­am­ples of good two-day itin­er­ar­ies, or ideas to get out to the wine re­gions,” he said.

“It’s go­ing to be great to be in SA this week and hope­fully next week, too.”

Aus­tralian Ho­tels As­so­ci­a­tion SA gen­eral man­ager Ian Horne said that Friday would be an “ex­tra­or­di­nary night” for Ade­laide busi­nesses.

“The re­al­ity is ac­com­mo­da­tion will be at a pre­mium be­cause de­mand will be ex­traor­di­nar­ily high,” he said.

“If they (Ade­laide prop­er­ties) don’t reach ca­pac­ity, they will get very close.”

Mr Horne said there would be a flow-on ef­fect for restau­rants, cafes and pubs — and not just in the city.

“Any­one with a big-screen TV (and) every coun­try pub will have a great op­por­tu­nity to host a pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal night,” he said. “It will be a good lead into sum­mer.”

Tick­ets go on sale to­mor­row for the first pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal SA has hosted since Port Ade­laide de­feated the Kan­ga­roos at AAMI Sta­dium in 2007.

Crows’ and Gee­long mem­bers will have first ac­cess to tick­ets dur­ing a pri­or­ity sale pe­riod from 9am to 1pm.

Tick­ets will then go on sale to the gen­eral pub­lic from 2pm.

Tick­ets are avail­able from Tick­etek on­line, over the phone (132 849) or in per­son at an agency. For a list of lo­cal agen­cies, visit premier.ticket ek.com.au

RE­UNITED: Matt and Brad Crouch in 2014, the first sea­son they played to­gether at the Crows, and be­low, wear­ing their North Mel­bourne jumpers – the team they bar­racked for as young­sters.

Main pic­ture: SARAH REED

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