By Trevor Jackson
IT is a long way from the Gold Coast to the dirt roads of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula but that is where former Mount Burr premiership player Henry Crauford now finds himself.
Rather than kicking a football around he is carting bulk grain in a two-trailer road train for Maitland Freight and seems to be enjoying the experience.
Crauford was picked up by Essendon in the pre-season supplemental selection period but never had a chance to play much football, being locked in a hub for the 2020 AFL season, with practice games the only opportunities which presented.
Having waited for the club to decide his fate, with list numbers reduced by the AFL, Crauford was told would not be needed in 2021.
But far from being deterred, Crauford said he would still like to have another try at league football, with the SANFL the logical choice.
“I love footy so I will have another crack at it,” he said.
“I have spent the last couple of months with (Essendon) saying I should be right, then with a few weeks to go they said they don’t have room for me.
“They went from 44 list numbers to 38 I think which was a bit of a bummer.
“But I will keep playing footy regardless.
“I reckon I will have a go at SANFL probably.”
Crauford was also unable to make his league debut at Norwood, with rib injuries preventing him playing at the top level in 2019.
In a way he has a score to settle.
“I didn’t play any VFL either so I still haven’t played league football,” Crauford said.
“I have been up here for two years and haven’t had a crack.
“It would be nice to at least play a few games.”
Crauford said the whole AFL experience was interesting, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing the whole structure.
He found himself playing 15-a-side games with players from other clubs such as Richmond and Carlton mixed in.
While there was plenty of help available to develop him game, having not played since the SANFL reserves grand final it was a tough scenario, considering he went to Melbourne with the hope to play AFL football.
“We stayed at the hub at the RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast,” Crauford said.
“It doesn’t sound that tough and it wasn’t – we got looked after pretty well.
“It doesn’t sound too bad sitting by the pool but after a couple of weeks I was getting a bit tired of it.”
For now Crauford has returned to his roots, driving trucks and enjoying life.
He carts barley, wheat and lentils around the peninsula and was meant to be a short-term option but he certainly seems to like where he is currently at.
“The plan was I was going to be here for another week then head back over to Melbourne,” Crauford said.
“Now that has all fallen in a heap I will probably stay here for a couple of months, maybe until Christmas, then go home and work out what I will do with footy.”
In fact, Crauford said football was one of the last things on his mind at the moment.
“I’m having a ball doing this,” he said.
“I don’t really want to think about football – I just want to chill out and have a bit fun up here.”
The current job harks back to the family business, with Crauford’s father owning a freight company.
He grew up around trucks and said it is like slotting back in at home – but a bit warmer.
The company he works for recently featured on a McDonalds television advertisement, with a dog and a Kenworth truck the two heroes of the video clip.
The company, the truck and the location seem to sit well with the big ruckman.
“I am working for them for the next couple of months driving this big Kenworth around and I love it,” he said.
“We are flat out at the moment, driving from Port Wakefield and Ardossan, cruising over to Dublin south of Port Wakefield to the silos.
“Port Victoria is a nice place – they have a good pub that makes nice pizzas.
“Every Sunday when we get a chance we go there and all the farmers go there and we have a few beers and a pizza.
“They are small country towns, big wide paddocks, dirt roads everywhere, it’s cool – I like it up here.”
One issue Crauford does now face is finding suitable work so he can again face his football dreams.
“I can stay up here and do this as long as I like but I can’t play SANFL and keep driving this truck, which is a bit of a bummer,” he said.
“They might get a bit mad if I pull a road train up on the Norwood Parade.”
Crauford described the recent years chasing football as a whirlwind, from school, an apprenticeship, Mount Burr football to Adelaide, on to the Gold Coast and now back down to South Australia.
“I just pack everything in the back of the Holden ute and keep moving my life around,” he said.
“It would be nice to have a decent crack at league football, so hopefully I get another chance one day.”