Brad Crouch’s road to 100 games has been far tougher – and longer – than most.
Two entire seasons missed through injury, debilitating setbacks and even contemplation of retirement were challenges that the new Saints recruit has faced throughout his career.
But after nearly 10 years in the system, Crouch is at last due play his 100th game.
Born and bred in Beaufort, Ballarat, the country boy was a mainstay of the Crows’ midfield for close to a decade, winning the Malcolm Blight Medal in 2019 following a career-best season.
At the end of 2020, Crouch made the decision to head back home to his native Victoria, and now is set to notch up the ton in St Kilda colours.
“I was definitely keen to play in Victoria,” Crouch told saints.com.au.
“I think the main thing that attracted me to the Saints was the history. We haven’t won a flag in a long time and it would be pretty cool to be a part of that if we could get one over the line in the next few years.
“I think that really excited me in comparison to going to one of the teams that have been successful in the last five to 10 years and chasing the flag with them, so that’s probably one of the main things for me.
“I sort of knew a few of the players here, which helped as well.”
Existing friendships with Seb Ross and Dougal Howard made the move back to Victoria far less daunting.
The decision to return home was also influenced by the connection that the Saints have to Ballarat, as well as familial ties to the region.
Crouch’s parents still reside in Beaufort, and with many of his friends diehard St Kilda supporters, it means the new recruit has plenty of support.
Now back in the state where he grew up, Crouch has settled in nicely to his new life.
A keen golfer, the wide array of courses and greens have been able to satisfy the midfielder, while Melbourne’s famous coffees have made an early impression on the Saints’ No. 5.
Meanwhile at clubland, Crouch has found himself with the opportunity to help mould some of the Saints’ younger talents.
“Some of our younger players have definitely impressed me,” the 27-year-old said.
“I knew a lot about Max King obviously, but I was pretty shocked to see how good he is and how good he can be. He’s only getting started and he’s so young.
“Hunter Clark is really exciting to watch – I didn’t know a lot about him. He’s a cruisy sort of bloke but he’s very good with the footy in hand.
“Jack Bytel’s impressed me a fair bit in the midfield, I really like him as a young player and think he can be a good player down the track.”
With close to 10 years of AFL experience, Crouch’s on-field leadership is shaping an important asset for the club, with co-captain Jarryn Geary injured and Jack Steele just six games into his tenure as skipper.
“I’ve learned a lot in the last nine years or so, so I’ve tried to talk to a lot of midfielders about different ideas and different things,” Crouch said.
“I’ve tried to bring some of the stuff I’ve learned that I think can add a little bit of value to some of the things we do here.
“On game-day I think I’m a reasonable leader, particularly in the midfield group where we’ve got a lot of young guys in there as well.
“I try to give Steeley a bit of a chop-out as well. It’s his first year being a captain so I want to take the pressure off him a little bit on the ground, particularly in terms of talking around the group.”
Come Saturday against the Hawks, Crouch will look to focus on what he does best.
“My pressure and my contest and playing my role for the team,” he said.
“I think throughout the year we’re going to have a lot of times when we need players to play different roles and step up.
“Whatever I can do to play my role for the team.”