While the wooden spoon seems more than likely for the Adelaide Crows as each round goes by, so to do the rumblings of player movement at the club – something Crows fans are accustomed to at a season’s end.
However this time, it will be management calling the shots, not the players.
The club has constantly been bullied and dictated to by players seeking go-home trades, and while some of this has been self-inflicted, the time for change is now as the rebuild gains momentum, with this year’s number 1 pick all but guaranteed.
As it stands, Adelaide will hit the 2020 draft with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, two third-round picks, and one fourth and fifth-round pick. The order for the 0-7 club will be something close to selections 1, 6, 20, 31, 45, 48, 55 and 63.
Management must get ruthless with their players and the list – something never done before by the Crows, who have been eager to keep their supporter base content (only two premierships and a legend like Malcolm Blight could get away with trading Tony Modra).
The list management team will not stand in the way of Brad Crouch seeking a long-term contract elsewhere. Exercising his free agency will allow them to lock in a pick 2 compensation selection.
At 27 years of age, the eldest Crouch offers a career average of just 12 kicks, 14 handballs per game, while a 33-goal return from his 90 games played is less than modest while the competition’s elite average closer to a goal a game.
Other alarming stats this season see Crouch ranked third in clangers per game and second in total turnovers. For a potential suitor, positives are third in stoppage clearances and sixth in contested possessions should that be their requirements.
At 27, Rory Laird is also seen as get-able by premiership contending clubs. The two-time All Australian defender has given strong service over his 150-game career, but with a contract expiring in 2021, Laird must question whether he will reach the ultimate with the club should he extend his stay. His performances so far this season mirror that of the team.
In a disappointing 2018 season, Laird managed to win the club’s best and fairest award, averaging 32 disposals and six marks per game. Alarmingly in 2020, his output has been reduced to just 19 disposals and three marks.
A fresh start and one last crack at a flag with a club in the premiership window could suit both parties.
The Crows would seek a selection in the late first or early second round and I am confident that Geelong, also armed with multiple first-round selections due to the Tim Kelly trade to West Coast last year, have made Laird a potential target to replace half back Zach Touhy, who will start the 2021 season at 31 years of age.
Laird is considered a significant upgrade and both clubs have a successful and mutual respect when trading with each other in the past.
Leg speed is a huge concern for the Adelaide midfield, described as slow and having a sameness about it. Matt Crouch’s name is sure to be floated at trade tables come season’s end, along with a flurry of de-listings as the squad gets rebuilt. The entire crop from the 2016 draft have all but failed, with Jordan Gallucci, Myles Poholke, Elliott Himmelberg, Matthew Signorello and Ben Davis playing a combined 51 games in four seasons. All must go.
The direction of the list management and recruiting team will be clear. But will it be ruthless and will they get it right?
The club will seek to trade out two or three players with currency, and combined with Greater Western Sydney’s first-round pick (currently 6), the Crows will reshape their list for the future, building the one that allows them to contend for their third premiership.
Launching into the 2020 draft with potentially picks 1, 2 (B Crouch compensation), 6 (GWS), possible top 12-15 picks for Laird and M Crouch, and 19, will see Adelaide with six picks inside the top 20 – exciting not only for recruiters but the coaching staff and supporter base.