Adelaide Crows get a leg-up
New Crows coach Brenton Sanderson (Slattery Images)
During the third quarter of Sunday’s game between Adelaide and the Gold Coast, a cheer suddenly rang out around AAMI Stadium.
News that would have made Mick Malthouse nauseous had just come through – the Sydney Swans were on the verge of succumbing to Geelong, gifting the Crows second position on the ladder and a home final.
Making Mick gag further would have been the celebrations that followed. Invigorated by the good news, the youthful Crows gleefully feasted on the hapless Suns.
Even the commentators got carried away, “They’ve saved the best until last!” someone chortled. “Nathan van Berlo: That man could well lift the cup!” yelled another. When Jared Petrenko kicked a goal – something he hasn’t been doing lately – someone else squealed, “He’s back in form at the right time of the year!”
You would have thought they were dismantling Hawthorn at the MCG on grand final day, rather than sticking the boot into the second bottom team, at a cosy, protected home venue.
Brenton Sanderson’s post match words, “We deserve a home final” must have stung Sydney, who had to confront Collingwood, Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn and Geelong in the final rounds, while Adelaide faced only Fremantle, Brisbane (who they lost to), Melbourne and Gold Coast. Competition leaders two weeks ago, the third placed Swans look tired after their gallant but unsuccessful mini-finals series.
When the AFL granted Adelaide an easier draw than that issued to the other basket cases of the previous season, more favourable even than that given to the debuting GWS, it thought it was just giving the struggling club a leg-up.
It did not see the remarkable transformation under Sanderson coming and so the team now sits in second place.
The draw has placed it a couple of positions above its true station, but that should not detract from the magnificent job Sanderson has done in his first year.
The insipid outfit that finished 14th last season is now a potent, if not fully realised, force. They are the most physical team in the competition, containing midfield stars Scott Thompson and Patrick Dangerfield, power forwards Kurt Tippett and Taylor Walker, possible All Australian ruckman Sam Jacobs, young centre half-back and rising star nominee Daniel Talia, and a vast array of midfielder-forwards.
Still, the post-match, self-congratulatory love-in was cloying to watch and while Sanderson is no stranger to premiership success, having been a long-term assistant at Geelong, he seems to be showing some dangerous overconfidence.
His statement, “When we play well as a team we normally get the result we’re after,” doesn’t seem entirely appropriate for a team that has gone down to Hawthorn, Collingwood, Geelong, and North Melbourne.
Adelaide may not quite deserve their second position but if they can beat a team like Hawthorn in the grand final, they will deserve the premiership.