Lachlan Sholl is primed for a big 2021, Image: afc.com.au

Despite a rough 2020 campaign, the Adelaide Crows unearthed some talent, and Rising Star nominee Lachlan Sholl was one of them.

When it comes to finding positives from Adelaide’s 2020 season, it was hard to look past the emergence of promising midfielder Lachlan Sholl.

A classy left footer from suburban Melbourne, the lightly framed wingman was selected with pick 64 in the 2018 draft with his elite skills and determined mindset making him an attractive late selection for the Crows.

Spending the first 18 months learning the ropes of AFL football and developing his game in the Crows reserves team, 2020 presented itself as a golden opportunity for Sholl as he looked to prove himself as a central piece in Adelaide’s ongoing rebuild. 

Speaking with The Inner Sanctum, Sholl looks back on finally getting his chance at the top level and having to quickly adjust to the speed and intensity of AFL football.

“It was an incredible night [debuting against Melbourne at Adelaide Oval],” Sholl told The Inner Sanctum.

“It is something I will remember for the rest of my life and to be able to share it with Shonny [Harry Schoenberg], one of my best mates, it was just awesome and something I consider very special.

“The game really is just so quick with the speed something you don’t really ever get used to, it just something you have to adjust to over time.

“So there wasn’t really a moment where I instantly felt I belonged at the level, you are just so focused on playing your role so you don’t really have time to think about whether or not you belong, you just want to go out and help the team win.” 

Following Sholl’s inclusion in round nine, the fortunes of the then-winless Crows would begin to turn as a core of exciting young players would begin to form chemistry and produce a sustainable brand of football that yielded three consecutive to end the season. 

One highlight of this resurgence was a round 16 clash at Metricon Stadium as the Crows faced a finals hunting Carlton side in Bryce Gibbs’ farewell game. 

In a match littered with potential storylines, a breakout performance from the 20-year-old former Blues die hard would steal the show. 

“It was just an amazing day really,” he said. 

“Being Gibba’s [Bryce Gibbs] last game against his old side it was a pretty special day, so to be able to share that with him and I suppose growing up being a Carlton supporter and being able to play against those guys was pretty incredible.

“On top of that, to get a win and contribute the way I did was very rewarding.” 

Sholl in action against the Blues in round 16 last year, Image: afc.com.au

Collecting 24 disposals and booting two goals, Sholl would earn himself three Brownlow votes and universal best on ground honours, when it came to a rising star nomination however he was controversially overlooked. 

Despite it being a major talking point amongst fans in the days following, the man himself just continued to work hard and went about backing up his breakout performance, with a standout game against Richmond in round 17 granting him that elusive nomination. 

“The whole controversy after the Carlton game I couldn’t have cared less about,” he said. 

“It [getting a rising star nomination] certainly wasn’t on the list of my priorities, it was always about playing my role and making sure I did everything right for the team.

“So to get the call from Nicksy following the Richmond game confirming the it was very cool and something I definitely appreciate.” 

Looking back on his maiden season at AFL level, Sholl is grateful for the opportunities he received and what he learned through the challenging year that was 2020. 

“It certainly was a different year, not just for footy but everyone in general as it was quite an average one all round,” he said. 

“In terms of football, I was just glad we were still able to get the season off and play some games because especially from a reserves point of view early on there was a lot of doubt about the year and whether it would get kept on.

“Then obviously coming into the AFL side in terms of lessons there is a lot to get your head around, the senior boys were awesome to myself and all the younger guys coming through just helping us and making sure we are ready to go with the structures and making sure we felt comfortable.

“On field the speed was a big one, getting used to that and trying to adjust, as you try your best but can never really get comfortable at that level because it’s going to catch up to you, that is something I’m going to try train and get better at over the off season.” 

Sholl at the starting line of the Crows annual two kilometre time trial, Image: afc.com.au

Finishing the year with some strong momentum, Sholl and a number of his interstate based teammates made the decision to remain in Adelaide over the off season and complete their programs together through a series of player driven sessions.

“With the whole COVID situation over the off season a lot of decided to stay back and get a lot of the off season training done together which was great,” he said. 

“It was firstly more of a personal decision for everyone to stay behind, then from there it was very much player driven, a lot of the younger boys were hanging around which was great for everyone to stick together and get those training sessions done to an elite standard.

“That made it easy settling back into the training loads and it has just been really good, all the boys are up and about and hitting the track well with nobody really on the sidelines.” 

This extra off season work would put Sholl in excellent stead heading into the beginning of pre season, with his winning performance in the club’s annual two kilometre time trial signifying his improvement as an endurance athlete. 

“Obviously it’s nice [to improve by so much], at the same time though with the run it is very much an individualised thing as I never went out trying to beat so and so or run a certain a place,” he said. 

“Everybody is out to beat their own times and a lot of guys did that which was fantastic, so it was great to get that initial base in which allowed us all to continue training at a really high standard.

“Sure it was nice to win, but as a group a lot of guys ran PB’s which was awesome to see.” 

With the Crows looking to improve their young core, they went about re-structuring their coaching department with experienced assistants Scott Burns, James Rahilly and Nathan van Berlo joining Nicks in the box. 

Sholl speaks highly of their early influence, with the group being much better equipped than they were 12 months ago. 

“They have been unreal,” he said. 

“For the whole group in general they have come in and right from the word go they have been supportive and clear with what they want, they are very similar to Nicksy in the way they go about in prioritising others and wanting to get the most out of every player on the list.

“I can’t really put my finger on as to exactly why [we are better off this year], we have a really good group of guys who are driven and determined in taking us back to where the Adelaide Footy Club belongs.” 

From a personal perspective, Sholl has used the pre season to improve a number of areas in his rapidly growing game. 

“Throughout the off season I firstly wanted to keep up my running and if I could try and improve that as the position I was finding myself playing out on the wing is very much a fitness based spot so I’m trying to build on that,” he said. 

“Then at the same time I am trying to build up my strength so I can cop the hits and brush it off and keep going in game.

“Once the balls came out however it was all about things like contested ball technique and not losing sight of the things I see as my strengths so continuing to work on things like my kicking and making sure that’s good to go.” 

With the 2021 season just 40 days away, he is determined to continue his strong form from last year and contribute strongly to the team. 

“My main goal [for 2021] is to continue to develop all areas and become the best player I can be,” he said. 

“I’m not really worried about playing a certain amount of games or anything, for myself its more about trying to improve, whether that be at SANFL or AFL it doesn’t really matter as long as I continue to develop.

“If I am lucky enough to get a shot at the top level, I need to make sure that I am ready as I hope to improve all areas of my game.” 

As for the club, Sholl is optimistic about what this young group can achieve in 2021. 

“It is really exciting [heading into the season with this group],” he said. 

“The group has certainly changed a lot since I walked in the door, to have a lot of young guys around now is really good and I have really enjoyed the energy everyone has brought.

“It is a real good vibe at the moment and I hope we can build on the latter parts of last year and have a fantastic year together. 

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