The Crows are primed to win – can they produce?

Justin Ahrns Roar Pro

By Justin Ahrns, Justin Ahrns is a Roar Pro

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15 Have your say

    The Adelaide Football Club has been building for quite some time now. Ever since their most recent premiership, in 1998, they have had a number of chances at winning a third flag.

    Many times they have been considered the best team in the AFL for multiple weeks of a season, and many times they have failed in a preliminary final, when a grand final was just a kick or two away.

    Since the arrival of the late Phil Walsh in 2015, the Crows have been building a culture and a program that is destined for success.

    They have overcome the losses of superstars Patrick Dangerfield and Kurt Tippett, as well as other outstanding players such as Bernie Vince, Nathan Bock and Jack Gunston.

    They were rocked by the salary cap scandal involving Tippett, which saw them forfeit their first and second round picks for two consecutive seasons. But still, through brilliant recruiting, coaching and leadership, they have climbed back among the AFL’s elite.

    Promising finals campaigns in the past two seasons have ended in disappointing circumstances. After defeating the Western Bulldogs in a thriller at the MCG in an elimination final in 2015, they were rocked by the Hawks just a week later, and an inspiring run came to an end.

    Last year, dreams of a top-four finish were shattered in the last round of the season at Adelaide Oval by the West Coast Eagles, and dreams of a preliminary final berth were shattered in the second week of the finals, this time by the Sydney Swans.

    This time around, however, there is no dynasty at the peak of their powers waiting for them as there was in 2015, and they will not falter in the final rounds to undo all of their hard work as they did in 2016.

    Sitting on top of the AFL ladder with three rounds remaining, the Crows are a game and a half clear of Greater Western Sydney, and at the very least should finish second.

    There is no sense of achievement or entitlement among the group. Players continually state in the media that they are yet to accomplish anything, but know that if they perform at their best in the finals they will achieve their goal. Coach Don Pyke echoes the same words.

    Their list is in far better shape than it was this time last year. The development of Jake Lever into one of the best defenders in the AFL and the 32 disposals per game from Matt Crouch has been huge for the Crows. But also, the record-setting tackling of Hugh Greenwood, the health of Sam Jacobs and Josh Jenkins that failed in the finals last season, and the improvement of their potent forward line has seen them go from strength to strength all season long.

    Jake Lever Adelaide Crows AFL 2016 tall

    AAP Image/Ben Macmahon

    As Don Pyke said earlier this week, there used to be questions about the Crows’ midfield, but not anymore. Geelong, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Melbourne have all exposed their weaknesses at some point in time, but the way that Adelaide has bounced back is what stands out.

    It seems that each time a team exposed their weaknesses, they learnt from it, made adjustments and didn’t let other teams do the same to them.

    The Collingwood game was an exception – they came out flat and paid the price, but since they trailed by 50 points early in the third quarter, they have outscored the Pies and the Power (who they played last weekend) by over 22 goals in under six quarters of footy.

    This season, they can also better manage their list to be ready for the finals. They took four or five unfit players to Sydney for the semi-final last season and lost. Now, they are able to rest players when necessary, be it by giving some players less training, less match time or less time in the midfield.

    Pyke and his staff will also be able to experiment on a few things – Rory Sloane spent more time up forward against Port Adelaide – and maybe get a closer look at some younger players such as Alex Keath, Wayne Milera and Jono Beech.

    Also underrated is the improvement of Riley Knight. Knight has been able to play many roles throughout the season – forward pocket, inside midfielder or tagger – and has excelled in every aspect of his game. He instils a toughness in the group that will serve them well come September.

    This season is not as strong as seasons gone past. The Crows finished fifth last year on 16 wins, and sit comfortably in first with 14 wins and three games remaining this season. But don’t let that fool you. GWS have a shrinking injury list, the Swans are building, the Dogs may be coming, we know not to underestimate Geelong, and the Tigers are quietly excelling.

    But if Adelaide remain healthy, they are the best team in the AFL. They have no glaring weaknesses, and their sheer weight of scoring prowess gives opposing coaches nightmares.

    Take nothing for granted, and expect September to be characterised by one percenters, kicking efficiency and determination to succeed.

    But make no mistake about it; Adelaide is, on paper, the best team in the AFL.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • August 10th 2017 @ 11:08am
      GJ said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

      On paper I would have thought GWS was the best team in the AFL.

      This Adelaide team is probably the best in comparison to the rest of the competition since the 2005-6 team. It’s been an unusual season, I’m still expecting there to be a few unexpected twists and turns. And at the moment at least 5 teams are clearly in the picture.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 4:39pm
        Danny said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

        I think Adelaide’s back line is better
        both have super forward lines but I again think the crows have the edge in scoring options
        GWS have a bigger name more flashy midfield and I would say hold the edge in outside runners but with Sloane and The Crouch brothers Crows are at least equal on the inside. I would put Jacobs ahead of Mummy as well

    • August 10th 2017 @ 11:10am
      sammy said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

      I can only hope that you are right as the team certainly looks strong all over the park and to perform poorly in finals this year would be a massive blow to the club going forward. As long as the midfield turn up and play hard which they have done most weeks, the crows generally win and need to take that approach from here until the season is done

    • August 10th 2017 @ 11:19am
      steve said | August 10th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

      Justin, what are you doing? The media aren’t meant to talk about how good the Crows look. Your meant to talk about how they can’t hold onto their young up and coming players or how Sloane can’t handle the tag (even though he has the last 6 weeks).
      You can’t talk about players like the pocket rocket racking up 30+ possessions a game at 80% DE across half back, or the 22 year old mid that sits second in the AFL for possessions at 70% DE, or the ex basketballer that smashed the record for the most tackles in his first 10 games.

      • August 10th 2017 @ 3:14pm
        Basil said | August 10th 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

        I totally agree.

        Aren’t the supposed to be speaking about the fairytale that is Richmond?

        • August 10th 2017 @ 3:45pm
          Slane said | August 10th 2017 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

          I’m a Tigers supporter. I think Adelaide will win the flag this year. That doesn’t mean I can’t dream of my own team miraculously snaring a premiership. This is the closest we have been in the last 3 decades. We have a sniff.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 9:18am
          David C said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          Unfortunately for Adelaide the final is at the MCG. They will be hoping another inter state team makes the Grand Final if they make it. Richmond would be their worst nightmare.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 9:28am
            Geoff Schaefer said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

            You’re kidding David C. The finals failing Tigers would be the dream!

          • August 11th 2017 @ 10:08am
            Pedro The Fisherman said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

            Adelaide would play Richmond in Timbuktu if they had to – no issue there. Richmond would be the 4th or 5th ranked team at the moment and may (or may not) win 1 final IMHO.
            Adelaide will be keeping a closer eye on Sydney and GWS I suspect.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 3:03pm
            Danny said | August 11th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

            I think the Crows perform pretty well at the G, and I believe the wide expanses suit their game, making it hard to shut them down offensively. The perform poorly at long narrow grounds like Subiaco and the rectangle at the Cattery

            • August 11th 2017 @ 3:12pm
              Pedro The Fisherman said | August 11th 2017 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

              Yes – the narrow grounds reduce the space available for the Crows runners to move into.
              Stopping the Crows has been more about clogging up the space in front pf them rather than the tag applied to Sloan.

    • August 10th 2017 @ 5:50pm
      schaefer said | August 10th 2017 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

      Well done Justin, a great summary! I must admit as a Crow’s supporter I am amazed on a weekly basis that every story seems to be about the chances of GWS, Geelong, Richmond and the other four. None of whom have anywhere near the overall team strength of the Crows. Individual stars for sure, but Adelaide continually steps up if individuals have quiet games. With an average of 102 points a game, a spread of goal kickers, a solid back half and a midfield with more depth than anyone outside of SA recognises, the Crows have well and truly flown under the radar. A fit GWS and a charging Sydney are not to be under estimated, but no else could challenge them on their day.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 10:13pm
        Justin Ahrns said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

        Thanks Schaefer. I guess the big question mark is about their recent finals losses. Those who watch closely know they are capable though

    • August 11th 2017 @ 1:53pm
      Peter the Scribe said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

      The Crows are the premiers this year. There power and spread at their best is streets ahead of the competition. Crows to beat GWS in an all interstate GF with Geelong out in straight sets.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 2:31pm
      Sydneygirl said | August 11th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

      The crows look the goods at present. But a couple of other teams namely Sydney and GWS look pretty good too. Richmond has surprised me this year. Not sure they can take it out though. Next couple of weeks may tell us more about all top teams.

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