With West Coast a recent premier, Brisbane back in town last year and GWS making it all the way to grand final, South Australia has been the failed football state of the last two years.
Both Adelaide and Port have promised much but delivered little. Whether from Taylor Walker or David Koch, it has been a case of all talk and no action. Will 2020 be any different?
The Crows finished top of the table in 2017 and won two finals by an average margin of eight goals to make the grand final. They kicked the first two goals of the decider, and we can fairly say it’s been all downhill from there.
While Adelaide did win 12 games in 2018, they never threatened finals in the back half of the year, and last season saw only ten wins off a soft draw. Don Pyke is gone. Doom and gloom is predicted for 2020 and beyond.
Adelaide best 25
B: Luke Brown, Daniel Talia, Jake Kelly
HB: Brodie Smith, Tom Doedee, Rory Laird
Foll: Reilly O’Brien, Brad Crouch, Matt Crouch
C: Paul Seedsman, Rory Sloane, Wayne Milera
HF: Tom Lynch, Taylor Walker, Rory Atkins
F: Tyson Stengle, Darcy Fogarty, Lachlan Murphy
Int: Bryce Gibbs, David Mackay, Riley Knight, Chayce Jones
Em: Kyle Hartigan, Jordan Gallucci, Elliott Himmelberg
Adding only Ben Keays from Brisbane and Billy Frampton from Port, hardly household names, the Crows have cleaned house in the off-season with a series of big names exiting the club.
Gone are Richard Douglas (246 games for Adelaide), Sam Jacobs (184), Josh Jenkins (147), Eddie Betts (132), Andy Otten (109), Hugh Greenwood (51), Cam Ellis-Yolmen (39) and Alex Keath (30). That’s 938 games for Adelaide in total and six members of their 2017 grand final side.
Matthew Nicks is now at the helm, in possibly the lowest profile coach signing in an off-season where five clubs secured new gaffers. Rarely was his name thrown up when assistant coaches got talked about for senior jobs.
There are ten players on the Crows list aged 20 or under that are yet to debut, and many of them will get their chance as Nicks looks to reset the club.
The back line is full of known quantities, so if they do come under siege as many expect they at least have a good measure of experience to deal with the heat.
Tom Doedee was to be welcomed back from a knee injury but has suffered a setback so Kyle Hartigan may get his spot back in a key post. Brodie Smith may push into the midfield if they want his drive forward of centre and Wayne Milera will find himself at halfback from time to time. The latter is due to take his game to another level.
Rory Sloane will give his all in the middle as usual, while the Crouch brothers will gather plenty of the football, but how damaging are they really as a centre square trio? There are no real tricks there, no game-breaking attributes.
Paul Seedsman will play outside and kick long. David Mackay is a jobber, and Bryce Gibbs is coming to the end of the line. He seems destined for an inglorious end to his career.
Reilly O’Brien annexed the ruck position from Sam Jacobs, and impressed enough to force the ex-Carlton big man off to GWS. His form in 2019 was a positive.
The Adelaide forward line certainly looks less potent than it once did. Taylor Walker can look as slow as molasses in January.
Tom Lynch will do what he does, trying ardently to link between the arcs. Others are either unproven or just okay, and can’t be relied upon to shape games.
Darcy Fogarty has shown glimpses and must surely now get every opportunity. He leads hard, marks well and kicks long and truly, calling back memories of Brendon Fevola.
A lot of experience has been lost, and with it an enormous amount of depth. For a team on the slide already, it’s hard to predict anything other than a major decline into ignominy for the Crows.
Predicted finish: 16th
How should Ken Hinkley’s time as head coach of Port be seen? Taking over after five years of double-figure finishes, he propelled them to the second week of finals in year one and a prelim in year two, but in the last four years they have finished tenth three times, accompanied by a losing elimination final. After seven years in charge, they’re almost back where they started.
Will the Power once again flatter to deceive, or can they finally deliver something of substance?
Port Adelaide best 25
B: Ryan Burton, Tom Clurey, Riley Bonner
HB: Jack Watts, Tom Jonas, Darcy Byrne-Jones
Foll: Scott Lycett, Tom Rockliff, Dan Houston
C: Xavier Duursma, Travis Boak, Karl Amon
HF: Robbie Gray, Todd Marshall, Brad Ebert
F: Connor Rozee, Charlie Dixon, Zak Butters
Int: Ollie Wines, Steven Motlop, Justin Westhoff, Hamish Hartlett
Em: Sam Powell-Pepper, Kane Farrell, Willem Drew
The Power haven’t gained anyone with AFL experience in the off-season, but have lost the likes of Matthew Broadbent, Paddy Ryder, Sam Gray and Dougal Howard among a few other battlers.
Four picks inside the top 25 at last year’s draft suggests they are building for the future, but we saw the impact of their teenagers last season, and perhaps the same is hoped for again. Finals are certainly on the agenda according to David Koch and Ken Hinkley.
How to rectify the inconsistency of Port? They have more than their share of flashy players, but do they have enough of the rock solid variety across the field?
The engine room isn’t laden with fit and in-form stars in their prime. Scott Lycett is probably better than the average ruckman, but he’s still just a ruckman. Tom Rockliff isn’t the machine he was, Travis Boak is coming off arguably a career-best season, and Robbie Gray is still their best player, but all three are on the wrong side of 30.
Ollie Wines isn’t much more than the player he was in his debut year. Sam Powell-Pepper has been a disappointment. Brad Ebert is now a forward, and Steven Motlop is more of an enigma than ever at the age of 29. Hamish Hartlett hasn’t delivered on his potential ultimately.
It’s up to the next wave to step up and take the roles of these players. Dan Houston has been anointed to spend more time in the middle after a third place finish in the best and fairest off halfback. Karl Amon improved markedly on a wing last year, while Xavier Duursma showed enormous promise. All up, it’s a motley crew in the middle.
Up forward, Charlie Dixon is a powerhouse when on song, and can look unstoppable, but still has too many games of no impact. Todd Marshall still has a way to go before cementing a spot, but should get more chances. Justin Westhoff is still there in the role of ubiquitous everyman.
Connor Rozee and Zak Butters gave Port fans great hope in their debut years last season, oozing talent and class, and showed they were capable of special plays. But young players often plateau or go backwards after a bright first year. If the Power are relying on them again to propel the club into a top-four position, it’s a tough ask.
After seven years, do we know if Ken Hinkley can coach? He can get his teams playing exciting football, taking the game on through the middle, and they can certainly win games, but we are yet to trust that they can deliver the same intensity week after week, month after month.
Predicted finish: 11th
9. North Melbourne
10. St Kilda
11. Port Adelaide
18. Gold Coast