There’s no footy. Richo and Browny are resorting to calling Xbox simulations of AFL fixtures. And Brian Taylor’s commentating on traffic. What better time to seek out some off-kilter and slightly unhinged reasons to watch each club in 2020?
The Crows have been riddled with issues and struggles to overcome ever since losing the grand final against the Tigers in 2017.
To cite a few examples, we have the infamous training camp and the exodus of players out of the club, plus a new coach and a new captain. It has not been easy to navigate for the Crows faithful.
The highly publicised camp has been described by many involved as a low point for the club. In the years preceding the camp, the questioning within the club led to a plethora of players either request a trade or publicly declare that they would not sign a new contract. Jake Lever and Charlie Cameron departed in 2017. Josh Jenkins, Sam Jacobs, Hugh Greenwood and Eddie Betts left in 2019. All of them played in that 2017 grand final.
Losing a chunk of senior talent in the playing group either via free agency and trades throughout the off-season, or via depreciating levels of morale for players throughout the season, took its toll on the Crows.
They came 12th in 2018. This saw Adelaide not make the finals for the first time since 2014.
They finished 11th in 2019. Something had to give.
An external review headed by Matthew Pavlich and Jason Dunstall was commissioned.
The review was largely played out in the public eye. The review was in full swing and before the investigation had concluded there were already signs of casualties – heads began to roll.
Taylor Walker stood down as captain after a four-year tenure to focus more on his family. He was shortly followed by Don Pyke, who similarly stood down as head coach. Pyke insisted this was a decision unrelated to the external reviews of the club.
Since this decision, Walker showed a very emotional and down-to-earth side to his psyche, which is often not displayed publicly. This was most notable in a tell-all interview with AFL.com.au this week.
“Your mind starts to think, ‘Is this the best place for me?’,” Walker said. “’How long have I got left in my career, do I step aside, do I stay on?’.”
Comments like this show exactly why Walker stood down as captain. He was not in the right mind frame to continue to lead the club going through an extensive summer of change.
Matthew Nicks has since been appointed as head coach, and midfield powerhouse Rory Sloane took over the sole captaincy.
Can the Crows now contend for a spot in the top eight in 2020? Walker certainly thinks so.
“I believe that we can make finals… I think we’re really capable,” he told the AFL website. “Hopefully we can show the people they’re wrong.”
It would be unrealistic to assume that the Crows will find themselves taking part in September action. Although their midfield is solid, the loss of Josh Jenkins and Alex Keath leaves some vulnerability at both ends of the ground.
The calibre of players that contended the 2017 grand final is no longer there.
Although the Crows are unlikely to play finals, it isn’t all negative news in Adelaide. The Crows have drastically changed their approach and have invested in the youth. They have placed their trust in the draft.
Fischer McAsey was selected with the sixth pick in the 2019 national draft as a ready-made replacement for Keath. Harry Schoenberg and Ronin O’Connor, two more long-term midfield prospects, also joined the fray.
The Crows have since rejuvenated their list and have transitioned from the third-oldest playing group in 2019 to the 12th-oldest in 2020.
Some may view this as a display of immaturity, however, it would be wiser to examine it as an opportunity for improvement and growth.
An opportunity presents itself for Matthew Nicks to become hands-on and offer the much needed guidance that is required to develop youngsters to grown men.
Exciting young guns such as Wayne Milera, Reilly O’Brien and Darcy Fogarty are ready to take their game to the next level.
Raw talents such as Chayce Jones and Elliott Himmelberg showed great signs of improvement towards the back end of 2019 and should continue to mature in 2020.
Season 2020 will be a bit more of the same for Crows fans when compared to 2019, and a mid to bottom finish will likely again be on the cards.
However, the injection of youth is exciting. It will benefit the Crows for years to come, and if all goes to plan, they will again become a force to be reckoned with.