Adelaide Crows deserve more respect
New Crows coach Brenton Sanderson (Slattery Images)
The Adelaide Crows head into September without a lot of backing from the punters. Even though most people consider this to be a tight premiership race, the Crows are not really considered a threat.
The general arguments mounted against Adelaide’s chances are that they had a soft draw for the run home and that their record against other top eight sides has been poor in 2012.
On a superficial level, it is an easy position to agree with.
Adelaide’s final three games were against bottom 10 sides (one of which they couldn’t beat), and the Crows also played GWS, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide twice.
It is also true that the Crows lost several crucial games against top 8 sides in the lead up to September.
But that’s where the truth stops, and the silly predictions start.
While Adelaide had plenty of matches against weaker sides this year, they also had a similar amount of games against other top eight sides when compared to the other finalists.
In 2012, Adelaide played nine matches against the other top 8 sides.
Geelong (11) Hawthorn (11) had the most matches against finals-bound sides while fancied contenders West Coast and Collingwood (10) each played just one more match against quality opposition than the Crows.
Sydney (9) and Fremantle (9) played the same amount as the Crows while much-favoured North Melbourne only recorded eight regular season matches against their opponents in the finals.
Adelaide’s winning percentage from these quality match-ups also adds clout to their premiership credentials.
Far from being the “chokers” that everyone assumes they are, the Crows have the joint-third best winning percentage in match-ups against top eight sides.
In 2012, the Crows won 55% of the matches they played against other top eight teams.
Only Hawthorn (63%) and Collingwood (60%) had better winning percentages in this category than the Crows.
Sydney (55%) has the same record, while the “sleeping giant” that is Geelong only won 36% of matches against other finalists.
Let’s be realistic. Adelaide finished 2011 with a 7-15 record, before rebounding in 2012 with a winning ratio of 17-5.
This rapid change in form does not come about simply by playing the bottom three sides twice or by having an easy run home.
The Crows are second because of a vast improvement in their work-rate on the field.
If you compare 2011 to 2012, there is a giant and obvious leap in quality from the Crows.
The class of 2011 were ranked seventh in the league in disposals, sixth in marks, 16th in goals scored, 16th in tackles laid and 14th in contested possessions.
This season has seen the team either remaining stagnant or dropping in disposals (13th) and marks (9th), but has also seen a rise in tackles laid (13th).
Crucially, the Crows are second for goals scored and first for contested possessions. Both of these attributes win matches.
It should also be noted that the last five top contested ball winners have gone on to play in a grand final. One of these teams, Geelong, had Brenton Sanderson as a midfield coach.
The Adelaide Crows are not getting the credit that they deserve for their improvement in 2012.
With the season being so even and unpredictable, they have the team and the game plan to take them all the way.
Write the Crows off at your own peril, because they are a genuine flag contender.