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Birdman takes flight: Crows appoint new football supremo

Football

In his playing days, he was known as the “Birdman”, but former high-flying Adelaide forward Brett Burton’s career has soared to new heights off the field.

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The Crows today confirmed the 38-year-old will replace David Noble as the club’s Head of Football, saying the current General Manager of High Performance was the “standout candidate after a lengthy and wide-ranging process”.

Burton rejoined Adelaide before the 2016 season after a stint at Brisbane, and oversaw the fitness program of the team which ultimately boasted the lowest injury count in the league.

After a lengthy selection process, Burton told media the opportunity had “arrived early but I feel well placed to take up the challenge”.

“Certainly one of the reasons I returned to the footy club was because from afar I could see with Fages [CEO Andrew Fagan] and the senior management, they genuinely go through a [due] process now when they want to find the right people for those senior roles,” he said.

He said his baptism of fire at Brisbane, arriving at a time when the club had “a change of CEO, no footy manager and no high performance manager”, gave him a “unique opportunity” to learn the ropes.

“I was kind of ‘it’ in the footy club for a bit there,” he said.

Seizing on the post-season mantra of “organic growth”, Burton said he had already forged “really strong” relationships with the playing list, citing Charlie Cameron, Harrison Wigg, Wayne Milera and Paul Seedsman as players ripe for immediate improvement, as well as fringe midfielder Cam Ellis-Yolmen, who “will immediately get an opportunity to throw his name up” after the club traded Jarryd Lyons to the Gold Coast.

“Across the board,” he said when asked where the improvement would come.

“We clearly operate in an environment where you need constant improvement.

“We played an exciting brand of footy last year [and] clearly we can kick a score, but when we got to the final against Sydney we weren’t able to restrict and score as well.

“That comes down to our midfield, our forwards, and the transfer of inside 50s [from defence].”

But he also cited experience as a crucial ingredient: “You look at that Sydney team, they’ve just been there year after year after year.”

“So there’s plenty of scope for guys to step up and take the opportunity,” he said.

Current Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Hass, who followed Burton from the Lions only last month, will now fill his role as General Manager of High Performance.

Burton’s elevation shapes as a virtual administrative swap with Brisbane, after Noble vacated the role to help salvage the Lions’ flagging fortunes as new coach Chris Fagan’s head of football. His departure at season’s end was awkwardly timed for Adelaide, which entered the trade period hoping to seal a delicate negotiation with Carlton for midfielder Bryce Gibbs, with no deal ultimately forthcoming.

The Crows job was also discussed with coach Don Pyke’s former premiership teammate Peter Sumich, who spurned the overture to relocate to South Australia.

Burton played 177 AFL matches before his retirement in 2010. He has since served as president of the AFL Players Association and is a member of the AFL’s Laws of the Game Committee.

Crows CEO Andrew Fagan said the “strategic and innovative thinker” had “an incredible work ethic, outstanding communication skills and a thorough understanding of the industry from a playing, high performance and administrative perspective”.

“We worked our way through a long and talented list of prospective candidates from across the AFL and beyond, and quite simply Brett presented himself as a compelling option for the role,” he said.

“He is widely regarded as having the attributes to be one of the industry’s leading football administrators.”

AFL General Manager of Football Operations Mark Evans concurred, saying in a statement that “the industry needs talented individuals coming into key administrative roles and this is a great opportunity for Brett to make a strong contribution”.

“My direct interaction with Brett was during his work with the Laws Committee and he was extremely impressive with the energy and diligence he brought to the role,” Evans said.

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