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Rory Sloane will determine Adelaide’s premiership credentials

Jay Croucher Columnist

By Jay Croucher, Jay Croucher is a Roar Expert

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    When both Selwoods play like Scott, it turns out that Geelong has a problem.

    Joel was out of sorts to start Friday night’s clash against Adelaide, and so were his Cats. Rory Sloane was not.

    Sloane was the tone-setter early, winning the first touch, then kicking an early goal that would give Adelaide a lead they would never relinquish. It was one of three goals for Sloane, all of them beautiful, long range finishes struck with conviction and accuracy.

    No one in the world seemed to have less concern for his health on Friday night than Sloane himself. While the reasonable world worried about the repercussions of letting a man play six days after being knocked out and having false visions of Bernie Vince, Sloane played with a breathtakingly short memory.

    He put his head over the ball, got crushed, and after getting crushed, he attacked the next contests even harder. He earned six free kicks, laid seven tackles, and found the ball 28 times. He was immense.

    As Sloane goes, the Crows go. When he is firing, they are unstoppable. They have the best forward line in the league and perhaps the best back six too. But their midfield is underwhelming unless Sloane can be overwhelming. Richard Douglas and the Crouch brothers are fine, but they are not transcendent. They are bass players.

    Rory Sloane Adelaide Crows 2016 AFL

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Only Sloane can transcend, and when he does, everything falls into place. Sam Jacobs is an outstanding ruckman, and when Sloane can play like a legitimate number one midfielder, everyone else becomes capable depth. But if Sloane is well held, the Crows are forced to live the Matt Crouch As Number One Midfielder life, which is not a life that any true contender can live.

    The Crows are possibly the worst bet for the premiership that any premiership favourite has ever been this late in the season, but they still might be the best bet for the premiership.

    They will have a home qualifying final, and the Adelaide Oval is a three-goal head start for them. The stadium is a cauldron and the atmosphere drives the players, which is essential for these Crows, especially in the midfield, where they need every possible intangible to give them an edge.

    The Crows are the smoothest outfit in the league, and their counter-attacks are the most devastating sequence in the sport. Modern football is played end-to-end in brief, powerful spurts, and Adelaide is modernity at its most immaculate (leave the gags at the door).

    They win one-on-ones in defence, and then their users off half-back and the wing, the likes of Rory Laird, Brodie Smith, Rory Atkins and Tom Lynch, all back their foot skills to be able to make the incisive kick into the corridor, which opens up everything for the Crows and sentences the opposition to darkness.

    The ball is delivered into the middle, Josh Jenkins holds his ground to clunk the mark, he wheels around, and then Charlie Cameron has the state of Texas and open space in front of him. Adios.

    This scene is powerful, but it’s not conclusive. The Crows aren’t always able to play their transition game so flawlessly. They need to be able to win the ball at the coalface. They need Sloane.

    When he’s the best player on the ground, as he was on Friday night, they are the best team in the competition. When he is held, they fall back into the pack and become eminently beatable.

    Their future will not be decided by their two greatest areas of strength – it will be decided by the man who mitigates their one area of weakness.

    Jay Croucher
    Jay Croucher

    From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

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    The Crowd Says (53)

    • July 24th 2017 @ 8:38am
      Roger of Sydney said | July 24th 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      Sloane is good, as is Dangerfield as is Martin, but when teams close them down what happens. Crows can win but they are very beatable as well which has been shown a couple of times this year. Lets see how they go against Sydney, if they win that they should be seen as flag favourites but don’t forget what Sydney did to the Crows and Cats in last year finals. Worth making the trip to Adelaide for that game.

    • July 24th 2017 @ 8:46am
      Sammy said | July 24th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Really unfair on the crouch brothers..the most recent example was when the crows beat melbourne 1 week ago when sloane had the least number of touches on the ground and the crouch boys dominated. And re selwood on friday night, there was a reason he was out of sorts and that was because he was tagged and harrassed like sloane and got frustrated then went after the man

      • Roar Guru

        July 24th 2017 @ 9:00am
        Cat said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        You mean the Melbourne that was missing Dom Tyson, Christian Salem, Jack Watts, Jack Viney and Jack Trengove? Don’t over-value beating a depleted Melbourne.

        • Roar Rookie

          July 24th 2017 @ 9:50am
          Darrin Lia said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          Not to mention Nathan Jones as well 🙂

        • July 24th 2017 @ 10:25am
          sammy said | July 24th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          Jack Trengove…the same trengove who has not played for 2 seasons?. Jack Watts is not a midfielder…How about Lever and sloane being off for part of the 3rd 1/4 and all of the last. Crows were down 2 players and powered away in the last 1/4. Tyson, Salem and Viney were out but Vince was in. I could also say that Milera, Hampton and Seedsman were out of the crows best 22 midfield rotations

        • July 24th 2017 @ 3:18pm
          Basil said | July 24th 2017 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

          Our apologies Cat, now after reading your observations, the Crows really didn’t deserve to win that game.

          • Roar Guru

            July 24th 2017 @ 3:42pm
            Cat said | July 24th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

            Another person who fails grade one read comprehension. No where did I ever say the Crows didn’t deserve to win. I simply questioned how much to value the win.

            • July 24th 2017 @ 5:07pm
              GJ said | July 24th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

              8 points

            • July 25th 2017 @ 8:40am
              Basil said | July 25th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

              You’re so mean with your insults. You hurt my feelings, you big bully.

      • July 24th 2017 @ 4:45pm
        dontknowmuchaboutfootball said | July 24th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

        Really unfair on bass players!

        • July 24th 2017 @ 11:35pm
          Mattician6x6 said | July 24th 2017 @ 11:35pm | ! Report

          Bass player?

      • July 24th 2017 @ 11:32pm
        Mattician6x6 said | July 24th 2017 @ 11:32pm | ! Report

        Crows employed similar tactics on selwood as west coast did for very similar results, the chink in selwoodsarmour is his frustration when things are not happening for him. As you noted sammy his penchant for playing the man in those situations is high and is a weakness that can be exploited in the right circumstance.

    • July 24th 2017 @ 8:49am
      James said | July 24th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Sloan fires the crows win. If Sloan is quiet the crows lose. They have a workmanlike midfield and not enough class overall.
      Come finals his tag is going to be harder than anything he has encountered this year, so you can cross out any chances of crows success this year.

      • July 24th 2017 @ 9:02am
        Basil said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Sloane got tagged vs Melbourne last week. Crows won.

      • July 24th 2017 @ 9:23am
        Gecko said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Gotta agree with James.

        Didn’t see the Adelaide-Geelong game but am surprised Geelong didn’t do more to blanket Sloane. Normally that’s the one thing that Scott Selwood is good for.

        • Roar Guru

          July 24th 2017 @ 9:30am
          Cat said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          Don’t understand why Scooter was rushed back after missing 4 of the previous 5 games to not tag Sloane either. Would have been better off finding some touch in the VFL first.

          • July 24th 2017 @ 10:26am
            sammy said | July 24th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

            he tried to tag sloane but was usually chasing a shadow

            • Roar Guru

              July 24th 2017 @ 12:25pm
              Cat said | July 24th 2017 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

              No, he didn’t.

              • July 24th 2017 @ 1:18pm
                sammy said | July 24th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                Cat.I was there and saw him try to run with sloane during the game..maybe on TV you don’t get the full picture

              • July 27th 2017 @ 1:48am
                Tristo said | July 27th 2017 @ 1:48am | ! Report

                Chris Scott said Selwood did try to tag Sloane. So did blix. Sloane beat both in the first half, so Scott dropped the tag

            • July 24th 2017 @ 6:52pm
              Joe said | July 24th 2017 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

              Scott Selwood’s best tagging work is during stoppages, I was looking out for it but I don’t remember him being on Sloane. Do you remember which quarter you saw the two on each other?

              • July 25th 2017 @ 12:21am
                Sammy said | July 25th 2017 @ 12:21am | ! Report

                Through the first half. Funnily enough on AFL 360 scott was asked that very thing and he said himself that the ran with scott selwood on sloane during the first half but not in the second as blicavs went to him

      • Roar Guru

        July 24th 2017 @ 9:42am
        Paul D said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        Totally agreed James. The Crows won’t win it.

        • July 25th 2017 @ 12:22am
          Sammy said | July 25th 2017 @ 12:22am | ! Report

          You hope

      • July 24th 2017 @ 10:05am
        Rex said | July 24th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        Your completely underselling the Crouch bros, Greenwood and other rotations inc c Cameron, Atkins, knight, Douglas

        Crows midfield proved they’ll be around the mark comes finals

    • July 24th 2017 @ 9:30am
      Fairsuckofthesav said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      Boy when the Crows win the flag there is gonna be a lot of collective egg on many faces. Right now the Crows are the best team in the competition followed by Sydney and Richmond and Melbourne. They sit at the top clear of the teams below them for this reason.They have the hardest run home of any team and keep winning. Cats were outcoached outplayed and outmuscled by a club that have learnt a lot from their mid season losses.

      • Roar Guru

        July 24th 2017 @ 9:33am
        Cat said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Just like the Premiership they won in April/May, this one in July is just as meaningless. Lots of water to go under the bridge yet. Crows may win it, but so may a bunch of other teams. Adelaide loses in Geelong and its ‘supposed to happen’, Geelong lose in Adelaide and its the end of the world. Funny how transparent some peoples motivations are.

        • July 24th 2017 @ 9:53am
          Craig Delaney said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          This palaver all comes from making predictions. All teams try to take one game at a time, but the rest of us have yet to catch up. Especially this season of ‘upsets’ due to equalization. On this Monday morning, on current form, if it were played today on merit, we’d see a Sydney/Adelaide GF. Next Monday it might be two other teams. Who knows come September? Not me.

          The Crows have improved over the year, and many underestimate the Crouches. If Wigg gets a game against the Pies, and plays to his ability, we will see some depth there too.

        • July 24th 2017 @ 10:46am
          Danny said | July 24th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          I have to agree (as a crows supporter) The two games were almost identical. In both cases the away team was smashed in the contests and a late flurry on the scoreboard flattering…. which in my mind makes Geelong and Adelaide fairly equal. The observations regarding Sloan are correct (and equally apply to Dangerwood) but I do believe the quality of the other midfielders is a bit underestimated. Maybe the mid season slump coinciding with tagging Sloane was a positive which have helped in the advancement of the lesser midfielders as well as Sloane himself in learning how to shake a tag. Games against Sydney and Port may shed further light on this debate.

        • July 24th 2017 @ 2:56pm
          fair suck of the sav said | July 24th 2017 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

          You are the one ‘coining the end of the world’. And I would rather win in late July than lose. For me that’s pretty ‘meaningful’.

    • July 24th 2017 @ 9:50am
      Geoff Schaefer said | July 24th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      I have to laugh at people that keep on writing off our midfield. If Danger or Selwood get blanketed or injured, Cats come back to the pack. Same with Martin at Richmond. As good as Sloane is, the Crows have more than enough mid field firepower to still win. Which is why they’re sitting on top. It seems it’s only Victorians who haven’t reached this conclusion yet.

      • July 24th 2017 @ 10:22am
        Darren said | July 24th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

        Actually Geoff I live in Adelaide and Crows fans are the worst at talking down their team. Many I know still don’t rate them as a good team and see only faults.

        • July 24th 2017 @ 10:17pm
          Craig Delaney said | July 24th 2017 @ 10:17pm | ! Report

          Hey Darren, do you read ‘Touch of the Fumbles’ on InDaily website? Great stuff from someone whose finger is on the fluttering pulse of, not only Crows fans, but the glass half empty soul of SA.

    • July 24th 2017 @ 10:20am
      Craig Delaney said | July 24th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      Jay, the Crows are, I think, number one for contested possessions, so have been doing pretty well at the coal face. The Crows are lower in clearances most games but win the contest often after that.

      Two things happened after round 6: teams tagged Sloane and worked out way to get round their high level of skill in the fundamentals. The Crows couldn’t play the way they do if they weren’t so skilled with ball in hand. Sloane responded on Friday with an aggressivity we’d not seen before, and that against his tags. The coaches have also responded tactically.

      Jenkins is leading up far more so that they’re not relying so much on balls out the back (which, by the way, was fine while it lasted). The Crouches seem to grow with almost every game, and Matt, in particular, is one reason the Crows lead in the contests.

      There is also the depth. Betts didn’t get a goal on Friday, but Douglas, one of the league’s most underrated players, got four. Luke Brown chimed in with one, which is starting to become a bit of a habit. Seedsman is playing well in the twos, and many teams would already have blooded Harrison Wigg by now. He should get a run against the Pies with B Crouch’s injury.

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