Coming off a heartbreaking end to their 2017 campaign that saw them lose the Grand Final to a rampant Richmond, the Adelaide Crows entered 2018 looking to leave no stone unturned in their quest for their third flag.
Bar Gold Coast and the GWS Giants, no club has been more affected by key players leaving the club than the Crows, and that rang true again following the Richmond defeat, with defender Jake Lever and forward Charlie Cameron both seeking trades to Melbourne and Brisbane respectively.
Adelaide’s bid for AFL supremacy would eventually be their undoing, with details of a controversial pre-season training camp that left several players ‘bewildered and mentally distressed’ coming to the fore during a season in which the Crows were sitting in the top four heading into Round 10.
A horrible form implosion from that point on, including a four-game losing streak, saw Adelaide become just the sixth side since 2000 to miss the finals a year after playing in a Grand Final.
Outstanding rebounding defender Rory Laird collected his first Malcolm Blight Medal along with a second All Australian berth, while Matt Crouch and Josh Jenkins rounded out the top three.
Rory Laird of the Crows (AAP Image/David Mariuz)
The Crows bid farewell to a number of players following their disappointing 12th finish, with Curtly Hampton and Sam Gibson both hanging up the boots after a combined 17 games with the club, while untried father-son duo Ben Jarman and Jackson Edwards were both delisted, as were Harry Dear, Matthew Signorello and Paul Hunter, with the latter to be redrafted as a rookie. Journeyman Kyle Cheney was also axed after 85 games with Adelaide, Melbourne and Hawthorn.
Adelaide again saw elite talent walk out the doors at West Lakes, with Mitch McGovern defying the contract extension he signed in 2017 and demanding a trade. The high-flying forward was eventually sent to Carlton in a complex deal that saw Adelaide receive pick 13, a future fifth round selection and Shane McAdam, who the Blues had the rights to via the AFL’s new pre-draft access for struggling clubs.
A trade for picks with the Gold Coast Suns allowed Adelaide to secure Richmond small forward Tyson Stengle.
With three first round draft selections, the Crows opted for Tasmanian product Chayce Jones at selection nine, before securing Ned McHenry of the Geelong Falcons at pick 16.
In a draft night shock, the Crows and Carlton were involved in the first-ever live trade, with Carlton sending their future first round pick to Adelaide in exchange for selection 19. This meant the Crows’ next involvement at the draft was at pick 30, where they grabbed William Hamill from the Dandenong Stingrays.
Lachlan Sholl was Adelaide’s final addition via the national draft, selected at pick 64. Mature-age ruckman Kieren Strachan joined the club through the rookie draft, as did Jordon Butts and the previously-listed Paul Hunter.
1. Hugh Greenwood
2. Brad Crouch
3. Riley Knight
4. Josh Jenkins
5. Matt Crouch
6. Bryce Gibbs
7. Jordan Gallucci
8. Jake Kelly
9. Rory Sloane
10. Myles Poholke
11. Paul Seedsman
12. Daniel Talia
13. Taylor Walker (C)
14. David Mackay
15. Kyle Hartigan
16. Luke Brown
17. Tyson Stengle*
18. Eddie Betts
20. Chayce Jones*
21. Rory Atkins
22. Andy Otten
23. Shane McAdam*
24. Sam Jacobs
25. Ned McHenry*
26. Richard Douglas
27. Tom Lynch
28. Cam Ellis-Yolmen (R)
29. Rory Laird
30. Wayne Milera
31. Patrick Wilson (R)
32. Darcy Fogarty
33. Brodie Smith
34. Elliott Himmelberg
35. William Hamill*
36. Andrew McPherson
37. Paul Hunter (R)
38. Lachlan Sholl*
39. Tom Doedee
40. Ben Davis
41. Jordon Butts (R)*
42. Alex Keath
43. Reilly O’Brien
44. Lachlan Murphy (R)
45. Kieren Strachan (R)*
FB: Tom Doedee, Daniel Talia, Rory Laird
HB: Brodie Smith, Alex Keath, Wayne Milera
C: Rory Atkins, Matt Crouch, Paul Seedsman
HF: Tom Lynch, Taylor Walker, Bryce Gibbs
FF: Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins, Jordan Gallucci
R: Sam Jacobs, Rory Sloane, Brad Crouch
I/C: Luke Brown, Hugh Greenwood, Reilly O’Brien, Darcy Fogarty
EMG: Shane McAdam, Tyson Stengle, Riley Knight, Richard Douglas
The Crows were hit with an injury epidemic in 2018 which saw a number of key players spending several weeks on the sidelines.
Gun midfielder Rory Sloane was one player affected, hindered by numerous foot injuries that restricted him to just 12 games, his lowest total since his debut year in 2009. However, while he couldn’t regularly take to the field, Sloane did provide one of the highlights of the season for Adelaide supporters.
Rory Sloane of the Crows. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Coming out of contract and with fierce speculation that he would depart the club like so many of his former teammates had done in the past, the Victorian-born Sloane instead signed a five-year contract extension, ensuring he will be a Crow for life. Fit and healthy going into the 2019 season, the Crows’ vice-captain will be desperate to atone for a disappointing year.
Needs a big year
Fresh off being crowned the league’s best captain by the AFL Players Association for a second consecutive year, Taylor Walker entered 2018 looking to bounce back from a controversial off-season in which he was widely criticised for both his performance in the 2017 Grand Final and his comments in the aftermath of Jake Lever’s departure to Melbourne.
A foot injury saw Walker miss Adelaide’s opening match of the season, but upon his return he booted 15 goals across four weeks. The skipper then fell victim to the hamstring curse that afflicted the club, affecting his performance for the remainder of the campaign.
In the end, Walker finished with 26 goals from 14 games, including just five majors from his final five matches. With the loss of Mitch McGovern, Walker must return to his commanding best in 2019 for the Crows to have any chance of breaking back into the top eight, both on the field and in a leadership aspect.
Ready to breakout
After managing one game in his debut season, Jordan Gallucci managed to break through for 16 appearances in his second year on the list in 2018. Adelaide’s top selection from the 2016 national draft, the smooth-moving Gallucci was a mainstay after breaking into the side in Round 5.
The 20-year-old outlined his potential with a career-best game in Round 23 against Carlton, amassing 17 possessions and booting four goals. With good skills, a great mark and a feeling for the big occasions, keep a close eye on ‘The Gooch’ in 2019.
Those who are familiar with my club-by-club season previews would know that this section is normally reserved for players who are coming out of contract at the end of the season and need to do everything in their power to try and earn another one.
However, I’m trying a different tact here. Having carried Adelaide’s ruck division for eight seasons now, 2019 looms as Sam Jacobs’ last chance to end his career as a premiership player. Nearing the age of 31, ‘Sauce’ has been a complete workhorse, missing just six games since crossing over from the Blues at the end of 2010.
Jacobs’ heir apparent, the 23-year-old Reilly O’Brien, is patiently waiting in the wings, and this season may be the year that Don Pyke and the selection team start picking their ruck for the future.
Myles Poholke of the Crows (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
With the arrival of former Tiger Tyson Stengle via the trade period, the Adelaide Crows will be hoping they have a long-term replacement option for mercurial goalsneak Eddie Betts.
Stengle, who is actually the cousin of Betts, managed just two games in his time at Richmond, including none in 2018 despite winning the club’s VFL goalkicking award with 33 majors.
At 172cm, the South-Australian born Stengle is lightning fast, has great evasive skills and, being a natural-born forward, has an eye for the goals. Watch out if Stengle and Betts are lining up in opposing forward pockets in 2019.
Armed with two first round draft selections for the first time since 2015, the Crows originally had a plan to trade up the order to try and secure one of the three South Australian guns touted for selection within the top five.
Unable to find a willing suitor, Adelaide kept their picks, securing Chayce Jones from Launceston at selection nine, before grabbing Ned McHenry from the Geelong Falcons via pick 16.
Jones, who was one of two Tasmanians selected in the top ten at the draft, looms as a potential future captain given his excellent leadership qualities. An outside midfielder who is capable of playing on the inside, he will be given every opportunity to add bulk to his frame before earning a chance to compete at the professional level.
McHenry could be the Jack Higgins of 2019. Maybe not in a footballing sense, but definitely in personality. Bubbly, warm and refreshingly honest, McHenry has a bright outlook on life, and is a quality footballer to boot.
A keen runner, the Geelong local is known for completing 30km training runs. This saw him take out the ‘Yo-Yo’ test at the draft combine, while he finished sixth in the 2km time trial. He is a fierce tackler and loves to put pressure on the opposition, meaning he will be a player Crows’ fans will love to watch as he develops.
Arguably the most consistent player across the league, Rory Laird has risen from rookie selection to two-time All Australian and now Adelaide best and fairest winner. Laird took his game to another level in 2018, averaging 32.2 disposals per game, ranking him fourth across the competition, while he finished equal-sixth in the Brownlow Medal.
Supercoach players love Laird, as he is the type of player you pick before Round 1 and watch him churn out monster numbers week after week. His average of 108.2 points was the second-best of any defender in 2018, and you’d be silly not to consider him when creating your squad.
Round 1: Hawthorn (AO)
Round 2: Sydney (SCG)
Round 3: Geelong (AO)
Round 4: North Melbourne (MRVL)
Round 5: Gold Coast (AO)
Round 6: St Kilda (MRVL)
Round 7: Fremantle (AO)
Round 8: Port Adelaide (AO)
Round 9: Brisbane Lions (G)
Round 10: West Coast (AO)
Round 11: Melbourne (TIO)
Round 12: GWS Giants (AO)
Round 13: Richmond (AO)
Round 14: Bye
Round 15: Geelong (GMHBA)
Round 16: Port Adelaide (AO)
Round 17: Gold Coast (MS)
Round 18: Essendon (AO)
Round 19: Carlton (MCG)
Round 20: St Kilda (AO)
Round 21: West Coast (OS)
Round 22: Collingwood (AO)
Round 23: Western Bulldogs (MARS)
The Crows are seen as one of the big winners when it comes to fixture difficulty. West Coast are the only side from the top six Adelaide will take on twice, with double-up matches against Gold Coast and St Kilda very tantalising on paper.
As always, the Crows will play crosstown rivals Port Adelaide twice, while they will go face-to-face with former club champion Patrick Dangerfield and his Cats twice.
Adelaide Crows players walk from the field looking dejected (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
After being handed seven marquee matches after their Grand Final appearance in 2017, Adelaide will feature in just three Friday night games this year, while they will play in two Thursday night matches, both them at home.
In total, the Crows play 12 games at the Adelaide Oval, while they head to Queensland twice to face the Lions and Suns away. A Round 2 trip to the SCG to play the Swans will be their only venture to New South Wales, and flying west to Optus Stadium will occur just once.
For the third consecutive season, Adelaide will go north to the Northern Territory to face Melbourne, with a trip to Darwin slated for 2019 after playing in Alice Springs last year. Finally, the Crows play four times in Victoria, twice under the roof at Marvel Stadium, once at the MCG and in Ballarat against the Western Bulldogs.
As aforementioned, the Crows will play the Bulldogs at Mars Stadium in Ballarat in Round 23. It will be the first time the club has ever played at the Victorian regional city.
Don’t miss it
In 2018, we saw Adelaide and Port Adelaide go head-to-head in a pair of absolute classic Showdowns, with both games being decided in the final moments.
This year, the attention on these sides as they prepare to battle will arguably be at an all-time high, with their first meeting to come in Round 8 on a Saturday night.
For Adelaide supporters, they will have to wait until Round 16 for a home Showdown. Round 3’s Thursday night clash with Geelong at the Adelaide Oval will also be highly anticipated.
Make other plans
While you can expect around 45,000 to flock to that Round 3 encounter with the Cats, you won’t find too many Adelaide supporters looking forward to the Round 15 clash with Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on a Friday night.
While they’ve won their last three against the Cats, their record at Kardinia Park is downright horrible. They haven’t left Geelong victorious since 2003, losing their last ten clashes there.
Adelaide are a very potent team on paper, possessing a very solid defence with one of the best rebounders across the league, a hard-nosed midfield capable of finding plenty of the ball, and an extremely dangerous forward line when everyone is fit and firing, something that just did not happen in 2018.
If coach Don Pyke and the fitness and conditioning staff can reduce the number of injuries across the board, it isn’t hard to see the Crows challenging for a top four position.
Predicted finish: fourth – eighth