Recruiting Files: Sam Kerridge

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Recruited from the Bendigo Pioneers, Sam Kerridge joined Adelaide with pick No.27 in the 2011 National Draft. National Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie recalls Kerridge’s draft story …

The Crows recruiters started tracking Kerridge at Under-16 level, where he represented Victoria Country at the National Championships and also played a few games for the Bendigo Pioneers Under-18s at 16 years of age. Kerridge was selected in the Vic Country squad again as an 18-year-old, but only played one game at the National Championships …

“The year before Sam was drafted (2010), he hardly played at all. He had hip and groin injuries and a lot of that came on because he pushed himself too hard – he’s a train-aholic. He only played one game for Vic Country, which surprised us but he was probably a bit underdone because of those injuries.

“Because Sam only played one game at the champs and he was right on our radar, we had to watch all of his games for Bendigo. I went to the matches when Bendigo played in Melbourne, but (recruiters) Scott Aquilina and Richard Schomburg went to watch Sam when Bendigo played at home.

“Bendigo were pretty much bottom of the ladder. Epsom Huntly Reserve, where Bendigo played a lot of games that season, is not a great ground to watch footy. It’s freezing cold and it’s in the middle of nowhere a bit, so the boys did plenty of kilometres watching Sam that year.

“It was hard watching because Bendigo got beaten a lot. Sam was a good player in an average team. He was the captain and he led the way. We all liked Sam, but Scotty was the one who kept pushing him. He and Richard should take a lot of credit.”

Kerridge was impressive away from the football field too …

“My first interview with Sam was before the 2011 TAC Cup season even started. I went up to Bendigo and had lunch with him. He’d relocated from Mildura for footy, so he didn’t have his parents or any family with him – it was just he and I sitting in a café talking.

“It was like talking to a 25-year-old bloke; he was that mature. I knew then he was an outstanding young man. I’m not sure if we even interviewed Sam with his family. I think I might’ve spoken to his parents once at a Bendigo game. All the research we did with his coaches and at his school was outstanding, we didn’t feel the need to go visit him back at home.”

Adelaide was sold on the strong-bodied midfielder after seeing him play alongside future teammate Josh Jenkins at Essendon’s VFL affiliate, the Bendigo Bombers …

“Sam’s numbers at Bendigo were outstanding, but the clincher for us was when he played in the VFL. He played three games for Essendon’s VFL side. He was only 18-years-old and playing against men, but he was really good.

“After that, we pretty much shut up shop on Sam. We didn’t need to speak to him again and tried to keep it as quiet as we could.”

The Club’s draft dealings in 2011 were complicated. The Crows packaged up their first two selections (No.10 and the Phil Davis compensation pick) in the National Draft and gave them to Greater Western Sydney to secure promising onballer Brad Crouch and Norwood defender Luke Brown. Adelaide received pick No.24 from Hawthorn in exchange for Jack Gunston and on traded that selection to Gold Coast, in return for pick Nos. 27 and 31. Pick No.31 went to Essendon in a swap for Jenkins and pick No.41. The Crows hoped to secure Kerridge with pick No.27, but they had competition …

“I think the Western Bulldogs were right into Sam too. From memory, they flew Sam down from Mildura a few days before the draft. In the end, they went with Clay Smith (at Pick No.14) and we were thrilled Sam was there at No.27. We were hoping he would be the player we would get there.

“It’s worked out pretty well. We ended up with Brad Crouch, Luke Brown, Sam Kerridge and Josh Jenkins, who have all played senior footy this year. We also moved up the draft order with our later picks, which allowed us to get Mitch Grigg, Nick Joyce and Cam Ellis-Yolmen too.”

Kerridge played one game (as the substitute against Hawthorn) in his debut season. This year, he’s added another six games to his career tally, impressing in a variety of roles. He received the Round Nine Rising Star nomination after a standout six-goal performance against North Melbourne on Sunday. None of this has surprised the Crows recruiting staff …

“Because Sam was quite mature, physically capable and well prepared, it wouldn’t have surprised me if he performed like this in his first year … he was pretty much ready to go.

“I actually thought he might’ve come onto the AFL scene a bit earlier. I thought he might’ve played 5 – 10 games last year, but we had a very good team and not many injuries, so it was tough for Sam and a number of other guys to get a game.

“He played in the midfield for Sturt late last year and that helped prepare him for this year. We’re really pleased with how Sam is developing.”