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Confident Crows receive 'another dimension' to midfield

Crows veteran Richard Douglas has backed his team to return to the summit - AFL,Adelaide Crows,Richard Douglas
Crows veteran Richard Douglas has backed his team to return to the summit

ADELAIDE veteran Richard Douglas says the Crows can be among the premiership contenders this season as they enter the new year with a renewed confidence and sense of enjoyment.

Douglas also believes a fit and firing Brad Crouch "adds another dimension" to the Crows' midfield, while skipper Taylor Walker has returned to training in great shape after injuries cruelled his season last year.

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The Crows have put their frustrating 2018 campaign behind them after finishing 12th on the back of a Grand Final appearance and claiming the minor premiership in 2017.

In stark contrast to last year, when the Crows had a huge injury toll, they had almost their entire list on the track for their first training session of the year at Thebarton Oval on Thursday.

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Douglas – who is entering his 14th season with the Crows having played 237 games since debuting in 2006 – said he expected the club to bounce back this year.

"It was really disappointing how last year panned out, but I feel the group is in a great headspace, which is really important and physically as good as I've seen," Douglas said.

"Footy's a tough game, it challenges you every day.

"You need to have resilience. That's something we've really worked on.

"As hard as last year was, there's some great learnings and some great experiences that we will certainly draw on this year.

"We're excited about the year ahead and there is no reason we can't get right back up there."

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Adding Brad Crouch to a midfield already featuring Rory Sloane, Matt Crouch and Bryce Gibbs is an exciting proposition.

Brad, 24, had a breakout season in 2017, averaging 28.1 disposals, 6.8 tackles, 5.8 clearances and 4.2 inside 50s per game, but unfortunately missed all of last year with a persistent groin injury.

After having surgery in July, he's ticked every box during the pre-season and is training with the main group.

"He adds another dimension - he's really explosive inside and outside the contest," Douglas said.

"That's something we've probably lacked and we certainly missed him last year. - Richard Douglas

"He uses the ball really well and he'll complement the guys that have been there really well."

Douglas revealed Crouch had a bet with younger brother Matt about who would come out on top in the 2km time trial.

"Matt just pipped him, but Brad ran really well," Douglas said.

"Brad's put a lot of hard work in behind the scenes last year and this early pre-season, hopefully the rewards are there for him this year."

Walker's impact was also limited last year – booting 26 goals in 14 games - as he never got going after foot and hamstring injuries.

The 28-year-old forward appeared to have slimmed down during the off-season break.

"With a few injuries last year, by dropping a couple of kilos, it's going to help him with his endurance and speed," Douglas said.

"If he's more agile and can move around the track a lot easier and get to more contests, it'll help him play good footy."