Every team wants to be great, most will realistically settle for good. But it’s OK to be mediocre, or even bad, as long as there’s light at the end of the tunnel and you have a plan to get there.
Adelaide might know where they’re going, but it’s starting to look like they’re circling the block and rotating the map after being bullied off at the wrong exit two years ago.
Despite the disappointment of the past two seasons, the Crows aren’t a bad team. It might have been a dramatic drop-off after being the best team for most of 2017 but, despite falling short of finals, they went 12-10 with a percentage of 104 in 2018.
This year was worse – and perhaps even more disappointing – though they were again a decent side, winning ten games with a percentage of 101. Not a good side, but not a bad one.
The worry for Adelaide isn’t that they’re bad, it’s that they’re stuck. The team they put on the field for their final-round clash with the Bulldogs had an average age of 27 years and two months, making them the oldest team of the round. Interestingly, the Dogs were the round’s youngest at 23 years and ten months.
Those Crows had 14 players with at least 100 games of experience, and the eight players yet to notch triple digits included a pair of 27-year-olds in Hugh Greenwood and Alex Keath.
There’s nothing wrong with being an old team. Old teams tend to perform well – veterans are consistent and have usually stuck around as long as they have because they’re good at football.
The problem with being an old team is finding ways to improve. Eddie Betts, Taylor Walker, Tom Lynch, Sam Jacobs, Josh Jenkins and Bryce Gibbs are all past their best – in some cases, a fair way past it.
Rory Sloane falls into a similar age bracket, but I’m not yet ready to say his best footy is behind him.
Throw in Daniel Talia, the Crouches, Brodie Smith and Rory Atkins, and the Crows have a strong core of solid AFL players, but where does the improvement come from?
Reilly O’Brien showed promise this season, but couldn’t keep a meh Jacobs out of the side down the stretch. Tom Doedee should give them a boost when he returns from a knee injury, but he could be a straight swap for Alex Keath. Chayce Jones looks promising, and Darcy Fogarty has it.
The Carlton trade hasn’t turned out as they would have hoped, but picks 19 and eight for pick three is still a deal a lot of teams would do – they’ve ended up with the best piece in the trade.
Should Keath depart, as expected, he too will bring back someone or something of value.
This Adelaide core gave it a real shake, getting just about as close as you can to the ultimate prize, and then they got old – fast.
Now it’s time to be bold and regenerate their list and introduce players who can play a key role in their next premiership challenge.
That doesn’t mean dumping all of their veterans, but bringing back all of them would more than likely see them tread water in the middle of the table.
Perhaps off-field change will give the Crows a boost – Don Pyke’s days appear to be numbered. Regardless, they can’t afford to bring back the same core – some, not all, of their veterans must be moved on.
It’s time to move forward, and that means leaving some favourite sons behind.