Jake Soligo (Photo: Adelaide Football Club)

The Adelaide Crows are hoping that youngster Jake Soligo can play a key role in the club’s new generation going forward, starting with his eye on playing more midfield minutes.

On his way back to playing after suffering an ankle injury in January, young Crow Jake Soligo looks set to suit up against West Coast this weekend.

Assistant coach Nathan Van Berlo detailed the ways in which Soligo has impressed him and how they plan to utilise him this season. He also spoke about the wider squad and how they are planning to give opposition teams some ‘different looks’ with the players at their disposal.

“It’s looking like ‘Soli’s’ going to get some minutes in the first game, our AFL game this week, so he’s going to get a good look at it for us,” Van Berlo said.

“[This] will be great because he had an outstanding summer up until he twisted his ankle so he’s looked sharp.

“He obviously trained today and hopefully he gets through and pulls up okay but if he does he will be getting some minutes with the AFL team to press his case for Round One.”

As the midfield coach and a former club captain, Van Berlo has cast his eyes over the playing list with his sights set on some young talents in Soligo himself, as well as Izak Rankine and Josh Rachele, playing in the middle.

Van Berlo explained that this is their focus going forward, is developing players’ abilities in other positions so that they can become a versatile and more well-rounded side.

“[Soligo’s] one, that he fits everywhere, which is why we love him,” he continued.

“He’s able to play ahead of the ball as a high forward, he can play inside stoppages as a forward or a midfielder and he’s a more than competent winger for us as well so we haven’t pigeonholed Jake into one specific role.

“What I’ve been so impressed about, is since he walked in the door, is that he can play those multiple roles, a bit like ‘Daws’ (Jordan Dawson). He’s not afraid to be rolled around in game, whereas some players prefer to just stick to, ‘just play me [on the] wing and keep me there’.

“Jake’s flexible mindset and ability to play those multiple roles is really important to us, we saw the back end of last year he played predominantly wing/forward for us and at different stages he played more time on ball, so where we can, we will.

“[Though] this week it’s more than likely he will play some wing minutes and on-ball.”

When asked about the likelihood of Soligo getting additional minutes, Van Berlo was certain that this would be the case.

“He’s played in the centre bounce before, and I like what he gives us in and around there so he will certainly be exposed to the centre bounce again this year.”

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As a wider strategy at the Crows, there are plenty of options to rotate through the wings, midfield or forward. Players like new leadership group members, Mitch Hinge and Wayne Milera were mentioned as key due to their ability to play half-back and on a wing.

“We value guys with versatility in the team, there wouldn’t be many at all that can’t play dual positions so I reckon it’s definitely a key pillar of how we move forward in the modern game,” Van Berlo continued.

“Players need to play like I said with Jake Soligo, forward, wing, on-ball, and the more players that we get that can do that, we get different looks in and around the footy, different looks ahead of the ball and [ways to] keep guys involved in the game more.

“We have even got guys off half-back that can play significant wing minutes for us as well so, ‘Hingey’, ‘Junior’ (Milera), [Brodie] Smith, [Will] Hamill, [Luke] Nankervis, these guys can all play wing for us as well.

“We are trying to build that versatility so that we do get different looks and guys get different opportunities to play different roles at AFL level.”

With injuries taking their toll in defence, all eyes are on the fitness of Milera and Jordon Butts as they race to be fit ahead of the pre-season match. Fellow defenders Nick Murray, Mark Keane will miss the game through a knee injury and concussion respectively.

“They’ve had three weeks of solid training now, which preps them for some minutes this weekend so they are two that we need to look at and get some minutes into for Round One prep.”

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