By Anthony Barich
Many of the AFL’s biggest stars hate lining up on Sydney Swans tagger Jared Crouch.
His dogged persistence, renowned discipline and strict physical regime have earned him a reputation as the tough, no-nonsense player invariably assigned to curb the opposition team’s most dangerous small forward.
He overcame two collarbone operations in 2005 to break the AFL record for consecutive games (158) and finished in the top 10 of the Swans’ best and fairest for the seventh straight season.
His phenomenal consecutive run of games since his debut in 1998 ended at 194 with a chronic ankle injury and broken collarbone along with hamstring and lower back problems in 2006, his well-trained body eventually succumbing to the increasingly hectic rigors of AFL.
He was recently appointed one of 10 World Youth Day ambassadors, and rightly so.
Footballers are human like the rest of us, but the only headlines Jared Crouch is likely to make is for helping Sydney win an AFL premiership, or for his freakish endurance and durability, rather than the drunken off-field shenanigans too many of his AFL peers have succumbed to.
And guess what? He’s Catholic.
He prays regularly and considers it an honour to have carried the World Youth Day Cross when it visited Coogee.
“It was an amazing experience – the Cross gives great strength and continues to focus your thoughts on your faith,” he said.
Born into a Catholic family and educated by the Christian Brothers in Adelaide, Jared now attends Our Lady or the Rosary parish in Kensington.
To Jared, World Youth Day is about helping young people realise how important faith still is in society and allowing them to see so many people from around the world all living and enjoying their faith.
“I think it will make the Church listen and learn from our youth, which can only give it strength and continue to get its message out,” he said.
“It’s an honour to be an ambassador for such an amazing event and to be able to help out as much as I can.
“My faith is very important to me. It gives my life meaning and direction. Without it, I am lost. It’s the reason I have been able to achieve what I have in my life so I am always happy to give back.”
As an AFL star, he often speaks to school groups, and he’s noticed first-hand how the world is changing and its impact on young people.
He has noticed that today’s youth are “losing a little of their focus on their faith as they get distracted by things around them”.
“I would like for them to see that having faith can still play a very important role in our society,” he says.
“During World Youth Day, I’m really looking forward to the coming together of people from around the world to pray and form new friendships.
“I know that this event is for the youth of the world, but I would love to see lots of Australians from all over showing the world how important our faith is to us.
“My advice to young people is to stay strong. Join together at World Youth Day and see that there are so many others who pray and have similar values. Make new friends and realise that you are not alone.”