Australian Jr. National Team member Croft bringing huge frame, big-time talent to the Griffins next season

Mitchell Croft stands 6-foot-9 1/2 and will bring physicality, a massive spin serve and a huge net front presence to the Griffins in 2024-25.
Mitchell Croft stands 6-foot-9 1/2 and will bring physicality, a massive spin serve and a huge net front presence to the Griffins in 2024-25.

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – With imposing size, an incredible skill set and a resume chock full of international accomplishments, it's easy to get excited about the potential of Australian Mitchell Croft, who will join the Griffins men's volleyball team in 2024-25, head coach Brad Poplawski announced on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-9 ½ outside hitter has a 7-foot wingspan and has the potential to become an impact player in Canada West right out of the gate for the Griffins.

"I saw 30 seconds of his highlight reel and I paused and went 'whoa, OK this guy's the real deal,' " said Poplawski. "He has huge potential, arm swing, spin serve.

"I just can't say enough about his size, seven-foot wingspan – he's a giant man," he added. "He has a very impressive resume and he's very excited about coming here and joining this program."

Croft's beach resume is decorated with an Australian Junior Championship in 2021, Asian Championships appearances, World Pro Tour events, a fifth-place finish in the 2023 Youth Commonwealth Games and a trip to the U21 FIVB World Championships last year at age 18.

"He has a phenomenal skill set," said Poplawski. "He basically had the option to go pro beach or pursue indoor. Hopefully, long term national team. He chose indoor. I do have a connection with the Australian national team head coach Dave Preston, whom I coached two summers with on Team Canada."

Croft is in the pipeline of top indoor players in Australia, currently on his country's Junior National team, preparing for international competition this summer in Singapore. Previously, he has been the starting opposite on Australia's Youth national squad (2020-22), New South Wales' U23 team (2022) and started at middle and opposite for Victoria Volleyball's U17 and U18 squads.

Additionally, the Australian Volleyball Academy member led that team to medals in 2022 and 2023 in the Canberra Volleyball League. And he also led Lake Ginninderra College to the Open Men's Honours National Schools Cup title in 2022-23, earning MVP honours.

Croft has played left side, middle and opposite, offering an intriguing versatility as he enters Canada West. Poplawski said his U SPORTS potential is huge.

"I never want to put too much on the guy right away, but I really think he can be an impact five-year player with his physicality and skill set," he said. "Obviously, coming to Canada West, he'll be playing against guys his own size and same physicality, but I think his work ethic and everything he brings is really going to translate well. 

"He sees volleyball as obviously the school aspect, but also the means to a pro career. So, he has very high expectations of himself. I like working with those athletes because they're going to want more – more video, more one-on-ones, more training.

"I'm not going to put the pressure on him that he has to come in and be unbelievable right off the bat, but I think he has the potential as a first year that we don't always see," added Poplawski. "Just the physical presence that he is, I think he has very high potential for us and I'm very excited to work with him."