With the 2019 AFL draft in the rearview mirror and club lists finalised for 2020, we decided – despite overwhelming popular opinion – that it’s not at all too early to start speculating about the season ahead.
Well, that was interesting.
After successfully making their way to the 2017 AFL Grand Final, which unfortunately ended in a loss, the Crows looked primed for a successful 2018 campaign with the addition of gun midfielder Bryce Gibbs and promising young forward Darcy Fogarty, along with the rise of Tom Doedee, the Crows’ 17th pick in the 2015 National Draft.
Upon saying this, it came with the loss of rising star Jake Lever, who expectingly chose to return to Victoria and join the Melbourne Football Club after having a stellar season with the Crows which saw him make the initial 40 man squad for the All Australian team. The Crows also lost speedy forward Charlie Cameron, who left for Brisbane in the 2017 offseason.
However, after a promising start to the season, things only started going downhill for the Crows.
Round 1 against Essendon was the first chance to see if the team would bounce back after the disappointment that was the 2017 Grand Final, but alas, the Crows started the 2018 campaign 0-1 after Essendon gained all the momentum after the three-quarter-time break.
The Crows quickly returned to fine form after defeating the Richmond Tigers in the grand final rematch on the Friday of Round 2 while holding off a raging Dustin Martin who bagged five goals and almost singlehandedly won the game for the Tigers.
This was then followed by a 49-point win against St Kilda in Round 3 at Etihad. Things were looking bright for the Crows, they were 2-1 heading into the Collingwood game at Adelaide Oval as favourites, but were dominated and embarrassed by eventual Rising Star Jaidyn Stephenson who snagged a five-goal haul.
Sitting at 2-2, questions were being asked of captain Taylor Walker and his efforts on the field after a shocking game against the Pies. The Crows went into Round 5 as underdogs, but in what was the game of the season for the Crows in my eyes, they managed to sneak away with a ten-point win with Taylor Walker answering the critics by booting four huge goals to lift the team over the line.
Fast forward to the start of Round 8, the Crows were sitting at 5-2 heading into the Showdown, which is notorious for there being no advantage, regardless of form. For some context, Adelaide were sitting in 3rd place behind Richmond and West Coast, while Port Adelaide were down in 11th place.
While it looked like the Crows were set to win, Steven Motlop dug deep into his bag of tricks and pulled out a last-second goal to put the Power up by five. After defeating the Bulldogs by 37 on a rainy Friday night in Adelaide in Round 9, the Crows were humiliated by the Melbourne Demons in Alice Springs by 91 points, which saw them lose the next three games before the bye.
Round 15 was a do-or-die game for the Crows, they needed a spark to reignite the fire which could push them back into the 8. Luckily for them, they managed to fight back from a 27-point deficit with inspiring performances from Taylor Walker and Tom Doedee, just to name a couple. Round 17 came along with a feel-good story for the Crows.
After many months of speculation, Rory Sloane re-signed for a further five years, cementing the fact that he is “a Crow for life”. Along with this, the Crows were able to celebrate this news with an impressive win against the Cats at the Adelaide Oval, showing that the Crows cannot be taken lightly when playing at home.
Heading into the last six rounds of the seasons, it was essential that Crows won most of the remaining games, with many Crows fans believing that they were able to go 6-0 in this period and make a late push into the finals. After a gutsy win against the in-form Lions at the Gabba, people started to believe that it was very likely that the Crows would be participating in the finals in 2018, but unfortunately, Adelaide was unable to meet the requirements to play finals footy after two heartbreaking losses to Melbourne and GWS.
But with two wins to finish off the season, including a 104 point thrashing of the Blues, the Adelaide Crows were able to finish the season on a high and I am very excited to see how 2019 turns out for them.
Rory Laird was able to cap off a stellar season with not only the Malcolm Blight Medal, but also a selection to the 2018 All Australian Team as a defender. Laird was a ball magnet averaging 32.2 disposals whilst averaging 16 kicks, 16.3 handballs and 6.2 marks per game.
Along with this, Laird was also able to finish equal sixth in the Brownlow voting which saw him receive 19 votes, however, it should be noted that Laird did miss two games with a hand injury, which could have potentially pushed him further up the order. Heading into 2019, Laird will look to establish himself as one of the best and further cement himself as one of the league’s most elite defenders.
Heading into 2018, many people asked the question, “Would Tom Doedee be able to fill the hole left by Jake Lever?”, and I believe that this was answered after Round 5 when Adelaide defeated Sydney. Doedee has shown that he has the athleticism to take strong marks as a third defender and courage to take contested marks, just like Lever before him.
Doedee was a red hot favourite to win the Rising Star but fell short to Jaidyn Stephenson. Doedee played in every game, except two in which he was injured, and cemented himself in the Crow’s best 22. I look forward to seeing Tom’s development into an elite, or at least improved defender in seasons to come.
Ball magnet Matthew Crouch had another great season in which we saw him average 32.2 touches while missing four games with a hamstring injury (who would have thought). Crouch continues to be a major ball winner for the Crows and it will be exciting to see how damaging the Adelaide midfield can be when all the pieces are healthy and in form.
I would love to see Crouch go back to All Australian contention in 2019 and hopefully poll well in the Brownlow.
In a year that saw many of the Crow’s forwards disappoint, we were treated to Josh Jenkins consistent run home in 2018. He kicked a controversial goal in Showdown 45. While Jenkins is often criticised for hanging in the goal square for most of the game, it is very promising to see him continue kicking goals at a high rate in such a disappointing season.
It will be interesting to see how he fits in without McGovern in 2019 and it may mean that he has to increase his work rate up the field to compensate for the loss of McGovern.
Feel good moments of the year
Tragedy struck the Greenwood family in the 2017 offseason as Hugh Greenwood tragically lost his mother to breast cancer. To see Hugh become a mainstay in the Adelaide best 22 was wonderful as a fan, and must have made Hugh’s family extraordinarily proud.
It’s no secret that Hugh’s basketball background has been heavily highlighted throughout his AFL career, but it has been a thing of beauty to see his transition from one sporting code to another.
Honourable mention to Brodie Smith who unfortunately tore his ACL in the Qualifying Final against GWS in 2017, but made his return from the injury just 11 months later. After a couple of stints in the SANFL, Smith returned in Showdown 45 and remained in the side for one more game until he was rested for the last two games of the season.
It will be interesting to see how he performs in 2019, and there will be many questions asked about his running and his rebounding off of the 50.
Injuries played a major part of the Crows unimpressive season, with many stars missing multiple games due to injuries. This includes the likes of Rory Sloane (Lisfranc strain, nine games), Rory Laird (hand, two games), Matt Crouch (hamstring, four games), Taylor Walker (hamstring, four games), Brad Crouch (groin, season) and Brodie Smith (ACL, 19 games), just to name a few.
However, there was some silver lining to these injuries as the Crows were able to unveil some debutants. Myles Poholke was able to hold his spot in the team for a handful of games and showed glimpses of potential, while Patrick Wilson and Elliot Himmelberg were able to taste AFL football for a game and showed signs of massive potential.
The key debutants that were revealed in 2018 were Darcy Fogarty, Lachlan Murphy and Tom Doedee. These three players were able to hold their spots in the team for many of the games in the season and showed that they have the potential to make in Adelaide’s best 22 for years to come.
Along with the debutants, we were also witnesses to the developments of some players in the list. Jordan Gallucci is the first one who comes to mind. He was able to hold his spot in the team for a substantial amount of games and was able to show off his pace and finesse, and showed those who doubted him that he was worthy of being a first-round pick.
Wayne Milera shined in the absence of Charlie Cameron, and used his pace, fending off abilities and intercept marking. After chaining together some strong games, we were able to see him develop into a rising star and a player who has the ability to be a mainstay in the Crows halfback or midfield in the years to come.
After a strong start to the season, it looked as though Paul Seedsman could be capable of polling in the Crows’ Best and Fairest at the end of the season, and this was extremely evident after his performance against Sydney in Round 5. However, inconsistency played a major role in his productivity on the field and we saw a dip in form towards the latter part of the season.
This also impacted Rory Atkins. A pacy and flamboyant player who isn’t afraid to run with the ball and set up players inside 50, whilst also sneaking a few goals through. If he and Seedsman want to remain in the best 22, they need to ensure that they can remain consistent through a full 22 game fixture.
Don Pyke has already shown that he is not afraid to drop high-quality talent as this was shown when he dropped Atkins for two games (Eagles and Tigers). Perhaps this can be used as motivation for Atkins come 2019. Sam Jacobs played all 22 games of the season, but I believe it is time that the Crows look for a new ruckman to replace Jacobs, who is now in his 30s.
Adelaide missed the chance to lure former Eagle Scott Lycett to the team, but now it is clearly evident that they look into the draft for talent.
Reilly O’Brien as a backup ruckman could potentially be a viable option, but I believe that it is a matter of time before he is delisted due to a lack of AFL games. Special mention to Jake Kelly and Luke Brown, two underrated players who perform week in and week out and should be highly praised for their efforts in 2018. As a Crows supporter, I find it extremely hard to believe that they went from finishing top of the ladder and making the grand final in 2017, to finishing 12th in 2018.
I, unfortunately, would have to give them a 5/10 for their efforts in 2018, but I am looking for a strong rebound in 2019 when all the list is healthy. The preseason camp should not go unnoticed and it is unfortunate to see how the team conducted themselves throughout the season when dealing with the camp, but things are looking promising for 2019, with the club recently being cleared after an investigation from the AFL.
It should be noted that in many of the games that Crows lost were games that they were actually leading late in the 3rd quarter. If they were to win all of those games, it would have pushed them all the way into the top four or even top two, but us Crows fans are left to wonder what if.
For me, I believe that Adelaide can make it back into the top eight next season with a healthy list and young talent like potentially Jack Lukosius, Izak Rankine or Connor Rozee. For Adelaide to be successful, they need players like Seedsman and Atkins to perform consistently on the wings and for Taylor Walker and step up and be the leader that Phil Walsh believed that he could be.
David McKay and Richard Douglas can potentially use their experience to mentor young midfielders like Gallucci and Milera and help them develop their game to an elite level. It will be interesting to see what 2019 holds for the Adelaide Crows, but I am sure that all of us Adelaide fans will be treated to something special in season 2019.