McLeod is considered one of the greatest Indigenous footballers of all time, one of the greatest of the modern era and is often considered by many as the greatest player of the Adelaide Football Club. Mcleod won two premierships for the Adelaide Football Club in 1997 and 1998. He was also awarded the Norm Smith Medal for best on ground in the 1997 and 1998 AFL Grand Finals.
In the 1994 offseason period the right to recruit McLeod was traded by Fremantle Football Club to the Adelaide Crows in return for their promising forward Chris Groom in what many now consider to be one of the most lopsided trades in Australian rules football history.
In an interview with Australian men's magazine Alpha in September 2005, McLeod would later reveal that he refused to play for Fremantle after feeling insulted and belittled by the newly appointed Fremantle coach Gerard Neesham who had not actually seen him play before.
In his first year with the Adelaide Crows, McLeod began his AFL career quietly, appearing tentative and nervous during pre-season games. However, in a round 9 match against Hawthorn at Football Park, a confident McLeod began to emerge.
In the dying seconds of the game with Adelaide trailing by four points, McLeod raced into an open forward line while being hotly pursued by Hawk Ray Jencke. Swooping onto the loose ball, he calmly laid it on his foot under pressure, dribbling it through for a miraculous goal from a tight angle at the Northern End of the ground to give his side a remarkable 2-point victory after they had trailed by 34 points at half-time. The Crows were able to avenge their worst ever home loss in history the year before (Round 9 1994 by 97 points to Hawthorn).
McLeod would later be named as an AFL rising star nominee late in the 1995 season after a string of consistent performances in a struggling Adelaide side which only managed a 9-13 record. He was also awarded Adelaide's Emerging Talent Award.
After two tumultuous years under Robert Shaw, legendary footballer Malcolm Blight took over as coach of Adelaide. McLeod lost 10 kg in preparation for a big season. The Crows would begin the season slowly as they adjusted to Blight's long-kicking and direct style of football before claiming a finals berth for the first time since 1993.
In the preliminary final against the Western Bulldogs, McLeod, who had been playing primarily as a forward or half-back flanker was placed into the midfield in the second half by Blight in an effort to spark the Crows side who trailed by 31 points at half-time. It would be the first time in McLeod's career that he would play in the middle and in a thrilling contest, McLeod and the Crows would win the match by two points to reach the Grand Final for the first time in the club's history.
In the Grand Final against St Kilda, McLeod would take his first significant step in his journey towards joining the game's elite. Accumulating 31 disposals, he was judged best on ground against the Saints, winning the prestigious Norm Smith Medal while helping his team win the AFL premiership. This was followed shortly thereafter with a gold jacket when he was named as the Crows best and fairest for the 1997 season.
Having caught the eye of football followers with his magical feats in the 1997 finals, McLeod would continue to dazzle crowds with his pace and agility in 1998 before being named in the All-Australian team for the first time in his career.
In a preliminary final rematch against the Bulldogs, McLeod would kick a career-high seven goals while being opposed to Tony Liberatore who was reputed to be the most ferocious tagger in the game at the time. In the following game, against Grand Final favourites, the Kangaroos, the Crows would win by 35 points with McLeod emulating his feats a year earlier. Gathering 30 disposals and winning back-to-back Norm Smith Medals, McLeod became the first player to win two Norm Smith Medals since Gary Ayres in 1986 and 1988.
McLeod had an outstanding season averaging 24 disposals per game and kicking 28 goals. He made the All-Australian team, finished second in Adelaide's Best and Fairest and polled 20 Brownlow Medal votes finishing third behind Shane Woewodin and runner up Scott West.
McLeod had perhaps the finest season of his career in 2001, controversially being named runner-up in the Brownlow Medal Count. Having been made a permanent fixture in the Crows midfield by coach Gary Ayres, McLeod averaged a career-best 24.7 disposals. He would win the Leigh Matthews Trophy to be recognised as the Most Valuable Player in the league as voted by his peers in the AFL Players Association as well as his second best and fairest award from the club.
McLeod, however would be denied the AFL's greatest individual honour in the 2001 Brownlow Medal. Trailing by two votes in the last round to Jason Akermanis of the Brisbane Lions, many believed he would receive votes after amassing a best-afield 37 disposals against Fremantle in the final round. Instead, the umpires decided not to award McLeod with any votes for the game leaving him stunned as he looked on while the medal was presented to the flamboyant Akermanis. To this day it is considered by the majority of the South Australian football public to be one of the worst Brownlow voting decisions ever made; many remain adamant that the medal went home with the wrong player that night. Jason Akermanis said "I stole the Brownlow from Andrew McLeod" as McLeod was a raging favourite and won the majority of media awards for the year.
In 2005, under coach Neil Craig, McLeod made a return to the half-back line to provide his side with run and drive from defense using his sublime skills. McLeod polled 11 votes in the 2005 Brownlow Medal.
McLeod challenging a mark in a game against Port Adelaide
After a year under Neil Craig's system, McLeod would return to some of his best form, leading to his 4th All-Australian selection.
Against the Essendon Football Club in round 10 at AAMI Stadium, McLeod played his 250th AFL game, where he tallied 18 disposals while soaring for a spectacular mark in a 138-point demolition of the Bombers.
For much of the season, however, McLeod played with a bursa in his left foot. After round 16, the decision was made for him to undergo surgery to remove the bursa, an operation expected to keep him out for a few weeks.
McLeod made a relatively earlier than expected return to the side in round 19. However, by round 21, after a disappointing loss to Port Adelaide, his foot was heavily infected and the club announced that he would require further surgery along with the disappointing news that he would more than likely miss the rest of the season and Finals.
Despite rating himself just a "two out of ten" chance to return for the finals, McLeod made a surprise return to the side in the preliminary final against the West Coast Eagles. After a promising first half, however, McLeod and the Crows were swamped by the West Coast midfield in the second half to eventually lose by ten points. McLeod polled seven votes in the 2006 Brownlow Medal.
Prior to the start of the AFL 2007 season, McLeod won the Polly Farmer Medal after being the best for the Indigenous All-Stars in a 50-point loss to Essendon. McLeod, the side's captain, kicked two goals to be his team's leading goal-kicker.
McLeod played most of 2007 again as a half-back flanker, sweeping up loose balls and creating his trademark run out of defense with his smooth skills. McLeod, however, was well held in his final game of the season, finishing with just 12 disposals after being heavily tagged by Hawthorn's Richard Vandenberg in Adelaide's elimination final loss to the Hawks.
Nevertheless, McLeod had a fine season, his average of 23.9 disposals was his highest since finishing runner-up for the Brownlow Medal in 2001. This was duly acknowledged when he was announced as captain and half-back flank of the 2007 All-Australian team. McLeod polled 15 votes in the 2007 Brownlow Medal and won the club's Best and Fairest award.
Four weeks after returning from a stint on the sidelines due to knee surgery, McLeod celebrated his 300-game milestone with a 63-point victory over Richmond in round 19. Andrew McLeod is just the second Aboriginal player to reach 300 games. After the season's conclusion, however, McLeod's knee flared up again, forcing him to have surgery over the off-season.
On his return from injury, McLeod captained the Indigenous All-Stars in the 2009 pre-season. McLeod continued to perform consistently for the Crows, and in round 9 (fittingly, it was Indigenous Round), he played his 313th game, breaking the club games record held by former teammate and good friend Mark Ricciuto.
McLeod began the 2010 season healthy and in decent form. However, in a round 11 match against Fremantle he re-injured his troubled right knee, ultimately keeping him sidelined for a month. He returned on 16 July 2010 in a round 16 match against Geelong in which Adelaide won by 11 points. This would ultimately be McLeod's last game of AFL football as his knee continued to have problems. On 23 August 2010, McLeod announced his retirement from AFL football. Andrew McLeod's retirement announcement:
"To the supporters of the Adelaide Football Club, I thank you for sharing my journey and making it a most memorable one. To all my coaches, I am eternally grateful for passing on your knowledge to make me a better player and a person, And finally to my teammates, past and present, without you guys, nothing I have achieved in footy would have been made possible if it weren’t for all of you. Thanks for making it the most amazing journey, one I can only dream of"