2017 AFL preview series: Adelaide Crows – 7th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    The last five or six years will go down as a tumultuous time in Adelaide’s history.

    Firstly, Neil Craig was sacked as coach in 2011, after taking the Crows to five finals series in a row but never progressing to a grand final.

    Then Brenton Sanderson took over, catapulting Adelaide from bottom-four side to preliminary finalist in his first season, off the back of a favourable draw. His tenure was short-lived when they couldn’t sustain their football from that year.

    Phil Walsh was appointed, and became a breath of fresh air for the competition, but was then tragically murdered mid-season at the hand of his own son. His vibrancy and passion for the game is missed to this day.

    Don Pyke became senior coach for 2016, and allowed the Crows to play in Walsh’s spirit, with freedom and attacking instincts, while also shaping the team’s defensive pattern through the course of the year.

    Adelaide has won elimination finals in the last two seasons, despite the upheaval and tragedy, but have failed to progress any further.

    They will be confident of heading deeper into September this year.

    B Kyle Cheney Kyle Hartigan Luke Brown
    HB Jake Lever Daniel Talia Rory Laird
    C Brodie Smith Rory Sloane Rory Atkins
    HF Tom Lynch Taylor Walker Mitch McGovern
    F Eddie Betts Josh Jenkins Charlie Cameron
    Foll Sam Jacobs Matt Crouch Brad Crouch
    Int Scott Thompson Richard Douglas David Mackay Curtley Hampton

    Emergencies: Wayne Milera, Paul Seedsman, Riley Knight

    tall celebration shot brad crouch crows

    Adelaide’s strength is in their forward-line. The 2483 points they scored in the home-and-away rounds in 2016 was the highest of any club, by a distance.

    The Crows had four players kick 40 or more goals (Eddie Betts 75, Josh Jenkins 62, Taylor Walker 47 and Tom Lynch 42), plus Mitch McGovern with 32. They can all take a grab, they can all share the spoils, and we know how well they work together.

    Jenkins plays the deepest, in what we might call the traditional full-forward role, except he’s also the supporting ruck. Betts is the size and shape of a traditional crumbing forward pocket, with a taste for the mercurial, but can also lead out from the square.

    Walker, Lynch and McGovern are a unique combination in that they all have the height of centre-half-forwards, but the mobility of flankers. As a rule, Lynch plays the furthest up the ground, Walker slots in behind him, with McGovern behind both again.

    It’s educational to observe their running patterns, and by effectively having three centre-half-forwards, no defence can possibly have a perfect match-up for them all.

    Adelaide’s defence is set up similar to the forwards, with three genuine tall defenders (Daniel Talia, Jake Lever and Kyle Hartigan are all 195-197cm), plus Kyle Cheney who plays tall if required. Again, mobility is a feature of this line-up.

    In last year’s Adelaide preview, I wrote that Talia needed to influence the play more, and he certainly did that, becoming a much more complete and damaging player in the process. It was his finest season, and he was a lock for his deserved All-Australian gong.

    Rory Laird and Brodie Smith provide the run out of defence. Smith can pull off the types of kicks that few can, and is at his best when booming them on the fly. Laird is more precise with his disposal, and is the best half-back in the league at finding a teammate under pressure, when there is turmoil all around him.

    If Don Pyke’s side has a weak point, it’s in the middle, which is not really where you want to be at your most fragile.

    The Crows lost twice to Geelong last year, when they were unable to match the Cats for star power in the middle. The two teams who kicked the highest totals against them were Sydney and the Western Bulldogs – both of which are renowned for the quality and depth of their midfields.

    Rory Sloane is a gun, but not quite in the very top echelon. Scott Thompson has been doing his thing since time immemorial, and it’s easy to forget that he actually started his career at Melbourne, under the tutelage of Norm Smith.

    Matt Crouch took his game up a few levels last year, and will look to improve again. Brad Crouch has a more rounded game than his brother, but has had injury issues dog his career so far. Both are ball magnets.

    Richard Douglas, Rory Atkins, and David Mackay provide support, but the entire midfield looks more limited than the other contenders. No wonder Bryce Gibbs was actively courted over the trade period, and surely will be again. Curtley Hampton could be the game-breaker they need if he can rejuvenate his stop-start career.

    In summary, Adelaide has a potent best 22 – an incredibly talented and complementary attack, a strong back six, and a midfield that isn’t as deep as others yet, but can reach greater heights with the Crouch brothers on the rise.

    What’s harder to judge is their depth. The Crows only used 29 players at senior level last year, a full 12 per cent less than any other side. The last club to use less than that in a season was Melbourne in 1959, who used 27. It was an historical anomaly.

    In 2015, they used only 32 players, which was the equal least of any team that year.

    We’ve seen Adelaide be able to adapt supremely to losing talent between seasons, regardless of who was at the helm. Nathan Bock and Phil Davis were poached by expansion. Patrick Dangerfield and Jack Gunston were traded for unders. Kurt Tippett walked out with no compensation given.

    What we don’t know is how the Crows will fare if they lose multiple cogs out of any area of the ground in-season. Already, we’re seeing a number of injuries scattered across pre-season. Rory Sloane fractured a cheekbone, Brad Crouch did a hamstring, Scott Thompson has a shoulder. Cam Ellis-Yeolman, a handy depth player, is already out for the season. The tide is starting to turn against them.

    Adelaide have been a very good side for two seasons now, and likely will be again. They have a defence that is hard to break down and a forward set up that is hard to contain.

    They’ll be around a similar mark once more, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that their depth will finally be tested this year, and we don’t really know what we’re going to get.

    Predicted ladder spread: fourth-eighth

    Predicted finish: seventh

    Best and fairest: Rory Sloane

    Leading goalkicker: Eddie Betts

    All-Australian potential: Eddie Betts, Rory Laird, Tom Lynch, Rory Sloane, Daniel Talia

    Rising Star candidates: Jordan Galluci, Wayne Milera, Harrison Wigg

    Cam Rose’s AFL preview series ladder

    7th – Adelaide
    8th – St Kilda
    9th – Hawthorn
    10th – Richmond
    11th – Collingwood
    12th – Gold Coast
    13th – Port Adelaide
    14th – Fremantle
    15th – Essendon
    16th – North Melbourne
    17th – Carlton
    18th – Brisbane

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (45)

    • March 14th 2017 @ 9:05am
      Sammy said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      Look..the positive is you have them in the top 8. The negatives are you rate melbourne ahead of them (a team with a less good attack and less good defence). With a league best attack and a strong defence they only need to win enough ball in the middle to beat teams and with added pace through the middle in the form of charlie cameron, wayne milera and curtly hampton to compliment the crouch brothers and sloane, they have every chance of doing just that. But in a way it will be better if the crows can slip under the radar and be underestimated as it puts less pressure on them…

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2017 @ 9:43am
        Cameron Rose said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        Well, at least there’s a positive.

        You make some fair points Sammy. Hampton’s body has to stand up, and Milera hasn’t proven anything yet. I think Adelaide’s biggest strength is that they will dominate the lower 6-8 teams, and be in no danger of losing to them.

    • March 14th 2017 @ 9:16am
      Rex said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      a born and bred Melbournian underestimating Adelaide again – shock horror!

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2017 @ 9:30am
        Cameron Rose said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        How do you know I’ve underrated them Rex? Isn’t that something that can only be understood after the year is over?

        What if they finish 10th? Then I’ll have overrated them.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 10:07am
        I hate pies said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        Maybe it’s the South Australians that are overrating them?

    • March 14th 2017 @ 9:43am
      Tom m said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      Adelaide is a far better side than Geelong or Melbourne, criminally underrated by Victorians again.

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2017 @ 9:45am
        Cameron Rose said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        We really are the worst.

        Although, unless I’m mistaken, Geelong did finish on top of Adelaide on the ladder last year (with more wins and a higher percentage), and progressed further than them in the finals?

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2017 @ 11:22am
          Cat said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

          Geelong in fact handed Adelaide two of their worst losses last year. Held Adelaide ‘powerful’ forward line to just 72 and 55 points in the two meetings.

    • March 14th 2017 @ 9:45am
      Roger of Sydney said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      The Crows don’t seem to have a better game for the finals , perhaps teams know how to close down their midfield and starve them of the ball. Two more midfielders needed then they would be a true contender but they will do some damage this year, just can’t see a flag with the current set up. Sorry Mum, Crows die hard

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2017 @ 10:59am
        Cameron Rose said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        I think it’s a fair point Roger. Gibbs would have been perfect for them.

        • Roar Rookie

          March 14th 2017 @ 11:34am
          Lamby said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

          I am not sure he would. I think he is an upgrade on a McKay, but we would have needed to sell the farm to get him. I think Atkins can do today 90% of what Gibbs can do – but the 22yo and 32 gamer Atkins has more upside over the next 10 years. What the Crows don’t need is another slow 200 gamer on big money getting 15-20 touches a game (looking at McKay and Douglas).

          The Crows had a top 6 midfield in 2016 with 5 of the rotation guys were under 22 and less than 50 games (Crouch x2, Atkins, Cameron, Milera). I think the depth in the middle is all about age and experience. This will probably change by the end of the year. The Crows also have a number of key players in that <22yo <50 games (Lever, Hartigan, Hampton, McGovern, Knight) who should all get to that 50-100 game mark by the end of the season. So this is a top 5 team from 2016 – where they had one of the hardest draws. In 2017 we have one of the easiest draws and about a third of our side from last year will hit that 50-100 game mark.

          I think 7th is about the lowest the Crows should finish – but there is a lot of upside.

          • March 14th 2017 @ 1:15pm
            sammy said | March 14th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

            Agree 100%. The young midfielders hold the key. If they can win enough ball and start to develop into topline players, the crows should dominate most teams

    • Roar Rookie

      March 14th 2017 @ 9:48am
      Snert Underpant said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      A good summary generally Cameron, although I strongly disagree with the comment “Rory Sloane is a gun, but not quite in the very top echelon.” Every betting agency has him in their top five Brownlow chances. If that’s not elite, I don’t know what is!

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2017 @ 10:58am
        Cameron Rose said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:58am | ! Report

        Thanks Geoff.

        One of my favourite things in footy is how much everyone bags umpires all the time, but then use Brownlow votes as gospel when making a point.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 11:18am
        Cat said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        All that means is a bunch of dumb punters slapped down some money on him and considering the house always wins … I wouldn’t put much faith into what punters do.

        • Roar Rookie

          March 14th 2017 @ 11:29am
          Snert Underpant said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          No Cat. What it means is that before a bet is even taken he is rated in the top 5 chances as decided by the bookies, not the punters. They only determine what happens to the price afterwards.

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2017 @ 1:55pm
            Cat said | March 14th 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

            Bookies don’t set those rates by who they think will win, they are set by who they think they can sucker punters into betting on. It’s all about the $.

    • Columnist

      March 14th 2017 @ 11:12am
      Ryan Buckland said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

      I am not a Victorian and I agree with Cam’s sentiments. Although I’d have their ceiling set a bit higher and their floor a bit lower.

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2017 @ 11:29am
        Cameron Rose said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Yeah, same, but I can’t go around putting their bracket as 2nd – 10th!!! Might as well just write “will finish somewhere”.

        • Columnist

          March 14th 2017 @ 2:13pm
          Ryan Buckland said | March 14th 2017 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

          Hahaha yeah this is true.

          • March 14th 2017 @ 3:38pm
            Craig Delaney said | March 14th 2017 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

            Then write the truth. It’s far more interesting to say the Crows are yet again diabolically hard to fathom, than a bland 7th. What makes them difficult to predict? I think they’ve been improving year on year since Phil Walsh took over. I think individual players have been improving. But how much more improvement is in them? What have Thomson, Mackay, and Douglas got left in them? And, if called upon, are players like Kelly, Knight, Milera, etc going to contribute what makes a genuine top 4 push? Will they up the contested ball count as part of their next improvement? Is the attacking game style suitable to finals footy? Or, will the defence be so good that the negatives of attacking are effectively minimised?

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