Over the past few seasons, Matt Crouch has been a staple premium in many coaches fantasy football sides. Coming off the back of a season-ending groin injury, he’s now significantly underpriced his potential. But is he entirely fit and firing ahead of round one?
Name: Matt Crouch
Club: Adelaide Crows
Career Highest Score:
151 Vs West Coast| AFLFantasy (2019)
162 Vs Hawthorn | SuperCoach (2020)
SuperCoach Price: $482,000
AFLFantasy Price: $649,000
AFLDreamTeam Price: $602,900
WHY IS HE RELEVANT?
You don’t usually assume that with Matt Crouch when you say injury and Crouch. But in 2021, the curse of the older brother injury luck finally hit Matt resulting in him not playing at all in 2021. This is sad news for Matt, Crows fans and, at the time, fantasy coaches. However, the silver lining is he’s been awarded the maximum discount available and is now priced the cheapest he’s been for years.
If you’ve played fantasy footy for the better part of the last six or seven years, you’re familiar with Matt and his fantasy footy pedigree. Even as a junior, he dominated the possession tally, and once he got to the AFL was always viewed as someone who’d be a certain midfield premium. Crouch is an intelligent player who uses his high IQ and vision to set up his teammates into space. But it’s his midfield strength and ability to win every contest that makes him one of the most reliable ball winners. From 2017 to 2019, he averaged 33, 32 & 33 disposals per game and boasted 100+ averages across AFLFantasy and SuperCoach.
His 2020 season was filled with ups downs. And even a week, he didn’t play after being dropped in round four. Despite this, he ended the year as one of the most dominant fantasy midfielders across all formats.
He ended the year averaging 26 possessions, almost three marks and a career-high 4.6 tackles per game. Impressive given the decreased length of quarters. Across the league per game, he ranked 1st for handballs, 5th for disposals, 6th for uncontested possessions and 7th for effective disposals.
Before getting dropped in round four, Crouch averaged 64.3 (80 adjusted) in AFLFantasy and had a top score of 72. When he returned in round five, he scored 4 tons, four additional scores over 90, 2 over 80 and had the lowest score of 75. In these final 13 matches, he averaged 93.9 (adjusted 117) in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam. By seasons end, Matt averaged 88.3 (adjusted 110), ranked 19th for total points scored (remember that’s with him missing a game) and ranked 14th for averages.
In SuperCoach over the first three weeks, he was averaging 88. However, over the final 13 games, he averaged 115, including 10 tons, five of them over 120 and one was a career-high 162. After the home and away season, he ended the year averaging 110 and having just two scores under 90 all year.
It wasn’t just his fantasy output that took a dramatic turn, but also his workrate off the ball and defensive efforts. In his first 102 games of AFL, only in two matches, he returned a tackle count of 10 tackles or more. However, in two of his final five games this year, he handed out 12 tackles in one game and 14 tackles in another. Easily the two highest of his career.
Just twelve months ago, many, especially in AFLFantasy/DreamTeam circles, had Matt locked in as a certainty for a top ten midfielder. With a substantial discount across all formats due to missing the 2021 season. Matt Crouch looms as one of the most extraordinary value selections of the recent seasons.Embed from Getty Images
There are two types of value in fantasy football. First, there’s the value that’s based on potential projection. It might be based on a role change within the side, a hoped natural progression, or some other variance that is caused for the forecasted upside. The other type of value is based on proven performances, yet circumstances such as an injury have caused them to be valued at a specific range of price points. With Matt Crouch, we’re not forecasting or hoping for scoring trends to bump. However, his scoring pedigree is beyond reproach. He’s one of the best points per minute players of recent times.
His role is also unquestioned. Matt is a pure first touch style midfielder. He cannot, does not and will not play any role for the Crows other than as a midfielder. However, his clearance work is exceptional, and in 2020, he showed that ability and desired to do the team first defensive stuff. Matt’s also clear best 22 and won’t ever be outside of the AFL side unless suspension or injury hit.
The elephant in the room that needs discussing is the groin injury that kept him out for all of 2021. There was a period that he was playing SANFL and on track for a late-season appearance. However, a further reoccurrence meant that any hopes of games were dashed. His 2022 preseason didn’t get underway flawlessly. The club has taken an intentionally slow build towards getting him back to full fitness. Recently, Matt spoke to the club media team and stated, ‘obviously last year was tough, so to come back and have my body feeling really good again, feeling fit and ready to go is massive for me.’
That’s a promising sign for those looking to him as a genuine value option. However, what must you be looking for over the next few weeks for him to make your round one side? A faultless preseason from here on! No setbacks and no-load management. If he’s able to deliver every step through the final few weeks of preseason, he can hold his position in your starting squad.
Not everyone’s structure is looking for a player in this range, and for those going a more pure ‘guns and rookies’ approach, then he might not be suitable for you. However, he has to be considered for those considering an upper midrange option. If Elliot Yeo or Caleb Serong are players you are considering, then Crouch must be added to that same watchlist.
In AFLFantasy/DreamTeam, Crouch appears to be one of the most straightforward selections in my team if he can maintain a faultless few weeks before round one. It’s not often you get a free hit at a 105, averaging midfielder at this much value. While in SuperCoach, as good as he could be, I think many will be making the correct choice and investing an extra $50k and locking in Lachie Neale over him.
On the draft day, every coach is looking for upside, and every coach always wants to avoid taking as many risks early on draft day. Some will still reach for Matt Crouch, and by reach, I mean to jump and draft as an M2. The reality is, given the plethora of top midfielders we have, I don’t think that early leap is justified. I’d be targeting an M4 range, but M3 is the earliest I’d be happy to leap.
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