When Ryan Crowley re-starts his AFL career on Saturday, he’ll also be resuming one of the great tagging duels of the modern era.
Crowley’s shut-down efforts on two-time Brownlow Medallist Gary Ablett are the sort of match-ups that will be talked about well into their retirements.
The former Fremantle midfielder is one of the few who have been able to subdue Ablett on occasion through their interlocked careers.
And as it happens, Crowley could go straight to the superstar on the first bounce at Metricon Stadium.
“I hope (he’ll be happy to see me), I’ll be happy to see him,” he beamed on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old’s enthusiasm coincides with a second chance at his AFL career.
Handed a year out of the game through a doping ban, it’s – ironically – the doping bans handed to a dozen Essendon players that have Crowley back in business.
“Ever since this all happened I’ve been counting down the days. I’ve been like a kid at Christmas,” he said.
The reunion with Ablett is just an extra cherry on top.
“I’m sure we’ll cross paths at some stage during the night. I might go and say `hi’ and see how he’s going,” he said.
“He’s a great player and you always want to pit yourself against the best and he’s probably the best.
“It’ll probably let me know where I’m at,” he joked.
Crowley couldn’t say whether he was going to get a lock-down assignment on Ablett, suggesting he could play a different role through the year.
That’s partially due to his age and to the new interchange rules, which have ended the substitute rule and placed a cap on rotations from the bench.
“The game’s definitely shifted,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ll tag a lot this year but there will definitely be games when I do.”
While he’s throwing himself back into the league with gusto, he’ll be sparing a thought for the banned Bombers this weekend.
Having experienced what a doping ban feels like, Crowley anticipates a tough weekend for the Essendon players left watching from the sideline.
“This week will be quite difficult for them because its round one,” he said.
“That’s what I found. It was probably the toughest week.
They’ve got each other, they can lean on each other and hopefully they can get through it.”