Despite being without a single win on the board, North Ballarat Rebels’ captain and man of the moment Matt Crouch is reluctant to let a few upsets get the better of him. A potential win against Sandringham Dragons proved futile, with the Rebels going down by 26 points in a low scoring game riddled with inconsistencies.
“Personally I struggled a bit, as a team we also struggled being unable to score frequently,” Crouch admitted. His thoughts reflected upon the scoreboard, a mere one goal and seven points made up the home team’s total in comparison to five goals nine points by the visitors. A member of the AIS-AFL Academy, Crouch is often goaded by the opposition and thus still adapting to the pressure placed upon him by opponents. “Today I did get sucked in, I have to keep my temper a bit at times and just concentrate on my footy,” he said.
Crouch is no stranger to expectations, also having to deal with the success of older brother Brad who was picked up by Adelaide as a 17-year-old in the 2011 AFL mini draft and having made his debut this season. Far from living in his brother’s shadow, Crouch is reassuring in his bid to avoid any comparisons. “He’s his own person and I’m my own person too”, he states. “I don’t feel too much pressure to perform at all.” Despite being unable to follow in his big brother’s footsteps in last year’s mini draft, Crouch is determined to view it as a building block, experiencing draft camp. “Kids at 17 never really get that chance, I was never really expecting to get taken, I used it as more of an experience,” he said.
Coach David Loader is aware of the expectations placed upon the experienced members of the team. “There’s no doubt about it, its tough for kids like Matt Crouch that have played a bit of footy and are good footballers,” Loader said. With the Rebels made up of a relatively inexperienced list, the leadership group and those with an established repertoire behind them such as Crouch are given a significant degree of responsibility. “Our leaders are probably learning a heap about themselves because they are really challenged every week, so that’s a positive,” Loader added.
Such is the case for another experienced member of the team in Louis Herbert, a previous full forward who is developing through the midfield on a wing. Providing glimpses of hope in the game against the Dragons, top age Herbert’s ability to take strong marks overheard and immerse himself in contests was reasoning for his selection among the best players on the day. Despite unfortunately missing out on selection in the 2012 draft, Loader is confident that Herbert’s form has maintained and will consequently continue to allow him to reap benefits.
Described as “an ideal 19-year-old to have on the team” Loader takes pride in Herbert’s relentless persistence for the game. “His footy has been outstanding… Today he played on a wing and was one of our best two or three,” he said. Utilising Herbert’s versatility around the field has allowed him to “address the areas he had to address”, with Loader pleased with the improvement to his defensive game.
In noting that the Rebels’ season this year has been markedly different from last year, Loader has continued to focus on key areas of development across the whole team. “We’re a bit more basic with what we’re doing… we’re nowhere near as advanced as this time last year,” he said. However, the anticipation for the future is not lost with the promise of new talent and continuous improvement among the young side. “There’s exciting times ahead,” Loader ensures.