Crawf craves country footy

By Daniel Hughes

AFL legend Shane Crawford is eager for country football to start up again shortly.

The 1999 Brownlow Medallist and former Hawthorn superstar still has a strong passion for amateur footy almost 12 years on from his retirement from the AFL.

His passion for country footy started when he played for the Finley Cats as a junior.

The 305-game Hawk made his impression on the town and club in 1986 when he finished third in the club's fourths best and fairest as a 12 year-old.

Unsurprisingly he also took out the most courageous award.

Reflecting on his junior career at Finley, Crawford said the need for football in local communities shouldn't go unnoticed.

“We here in the papers all the time when's the AFL all going to start again, but I question, what about the country clubs?,” he said.

“What about the suburban clubs, but not only that, netball and soccer as well.

“We need people mixing and getting together because it's so important from a mental point of view and social, bringing everyone together, so hopefully that all gets underway very soon.”

He is hoping the chance for a mid-June start in the AFL could guide local competitions to follow suit.

“I'm hearing that around mid-June there could be some AFL football which will be great and then hopefully from there it will give us all a bit of direction for local sport which will be nice,” Crawford said.

“That's all anyone wants, a date to look forward to, to tick the days off and you can start to get fairly focused from there.”

Having led his junior Finley side to win the grand final win in 1989 in the thirds, Crawford is no stranger to country football.

He said one day he hopes his children can represent his childhood club.

“With the Finley Cats I always have a soft spot for them and always want them to do well and every week I always look in the paper to see how they've gone.

“You always hope they can win some games and get right up there, it was a great club for me to grow up with.

“There's a lot of very good people there so hopefully they can win a premiership which will hopefully be in the next few years.

“That will bring the town alive which is what it's all about.

“There's a big difference between football in the city and out here, I'd love for my children to have the chance of playing in the same side together for the Cats.

“I think they'd love it. The chance to play some country footy one year.”

Crawford has made his return to the bush league's this year, stepping into a new role as coach of the struggling Ardmona Bush Cats in the Kyabram District Football League.

Ardmona has been a club that has struggled for a long time, with their last win coming in the final round of the 2015 KDFL season.

Crawford said although the Bush Cats need to improve, the players have been working hard.

“There's a bit of work to be done there, but its been fun, everyone's had the right focus and getting around each other,” he said.

“Who knows, if we can get them up and going and having a win then maybe we can set our sights on Finley a year or two later.”