Adelaide Crows star Matt Crouch has revealed he had doubted whether he would ever return to playing AFL after being kept to the sidelines for the entirety of the 2021 season.

A hip injury left Crouch to endure a year of uncertainty as he constantly battled with setback after setback, eventually having his prospects of returning to Matthew Nicks' side ruled out toward the back-end of last year.

Crouch required further surgery on a niggling groin issue in October and was again placed with a battle to eventually return to the AFL level.

The 2017 All-Australian and Malcolm Blight Medal winner has now begun to stake his claim for a Round 1 showing, having featured in Adelaide's recent pre-season hit-outs against the Lions and Power.

The return was a sight for the sore eyes of Crows fans, with Crouch revealing to media on Monday morning that he had once thought his AFL career could end as a result of ongoing injury issues.

"I definitely had queries at times whether I'd get back to AFL level and play again," Crouch said.

"It was frustrating, so I think you get an appreciation of being fit and healthy and playing and doing what you love.

"It's obviously a challenging time."

Crouch collected a team-high 31 possessions to go along with five clearances and 331 metres gained in the Crows' 37-point loss to Port Adelaide on Saturday, with the 26-year-old looking to return to the form that had him touted as a future superstar of the league.

The Adelaide ball-magnet said he has refound a level of optimism for the year ahead, with a return to Nicks' side buoying Crouch's hopes to potentially return to his best brand of football.

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“It was great to be out there with the boys and play some footy,” Crouch added.

“Since having surgery at the end of the season, that’s really helped with the pain side of things and I’m feeling good again.

“I’m looking forward to this year.”

The reliance on Crouch to return to his ball-winning best has been amplified after 2021 best and fairest winner Rory Laird suffered a fractured hand in Saturday's loss.

The star midfielder is set to miss at least the next month of action, opening a large void in Nicks' engine room for the start of the season.

The Crows will open their 2022 home and away season against Fremantle on Sunday, March 20 at Adelaide Oval, which may be Crouch's first appearance since September 2020.