A FORMER Magarey medallist will add another dimension to Portland’s growing midfield stocks in 2014.
Pint-sized Sturt recruit Luke Crane (pictured) has committed to the Tigers for the next two Hampden league seasons as an assistant coach.
Crane — a zippy 170-centimetre onballer — retired from the SANFL in September after a seven-year stint with the Double Blues.
He collected the SANFL’s top honour, the Magarey Medal, in 2008 and is a two-time Sturt best and fairest winner. Crane, 28, watched the 2013 Hampden league grand final at Reid Oval with close friend and new coach Jake Myles.
Sturt assistant coach Brodie Atkinson coached Portland to its 2003 Western Border league flag, while Crane’s friendship with Myles also helped produce the recruiting coup.
Crane said Portland presented a new football challenge.
“I am just excited to get around a new place and meet new people,” he said.
“Portland is in a new league and it’s a pretty big deal so I am pretty excited to help them be successful.
“I have a bit of experience behind me and hopefully my body holds up and I get some pace going through the midfield.
“That’s one thing Jake says they’re lacking a bit and hopefully I’ll help out the junior blokes too.”
Crane’s football career has taken him around Australia.
“I grew up in Tassie and my home club is George Town, which is a very similar town to Portland actually,” he said.
“I played TAC Cup with Tassie and went to Queensland when I was 18 and played for Zilmere and that’s where the connection with Jake started. I moved to Sturt in 2007.”
Crane, who played with Myles at the Double Blues as well, said his Magarey Medal win was something he treasured.
“It came pretty quick. I got there in 2007 and won it in ’08,” he said.
“At that age it was a pretty big honour and something I look back on now.”
Crane said he never expected to be drafted to an AFL club as a teenager, given his height.
“When I won the Magarey I thought I might be a chance but nothing eventuated,” he said.
Myles said Crane would add depth to the Tigers’ midfield, which had already signed 2011 Northern Territory Thunder best and fairest winner Jake Dignan.
“He’s elusive, pretty small — he’s not a big bloke — but he’s pretty explosive,” Myles said of Crane.
“He wants to dabble in coaching and to get a player straight out of the SANFL with 120-odd games experience is invaluable, especially with a young group coming through.
“He’ll bring a lot of professionalism off the field and on the field I expect him to have a decent say in the midfield.”
Myles said Dignan, originally from Ballarat, was a prized recruit.
He played in the Thunder’s 2011 NTFL premiership.
“From all reports he’s a hard, in-and-under bullocking player who wins the footy and delivers it well,” he said.
Portland has lost former coach Jarrod Holt to Hamilton Kangaroos and enigmatic goalkicker Jarrod Hayse, meaning it will field a new-look forward line next season.
Promising ruckman Ben Malcolm will train with VFL club Werribee in the lead-up to Christmas.
Malcolm played TAC Cup football with North Ballarat Rebels and enjoyed a solid Hampden league debut season.