The AFL free agency period has officially begun, with Adelaide Crows defender Jake Kelly and Richmond Tigers tall Mabior Chol the first players to find new homes for 2022.
The Adelaide Crows improved on their wooden spoon finish in season 2020 when they only had three wins from the 17 games that they played.
Contrastingly in season 2021 they won seven games out of 22 games and finished fourth last.
Overall, it was a challenging season as they finished 15th, but what was most concerning was when they lost, they weren’t able to be competitive, which was disappointing. Incredibly, nine of the Crows’ 15 losses in season 2021 were by 28 points or more.
They were a team that was difficult to get a read on as far as their form was concerned in season 2021, as they won three of their first four games, but only won four of their last 18 games. One of those four wins was remarkable, as they were the first team in season 2021 to beat the Demons, in Round 10, by a solitary point.
They were without arguably their best midfielder for the entirety of season 2021, Matt Crouch. That did create an opportunity for other players to play in the midfield though, such as Rory Laird, who has always been a half back flanker.
To be eligible for selection, it’s essential that each player selected featured in at least five games in season 2021. Here are the five players and an honourable mention selected, which the Crows could least afford to lose based on their performances in season 2021.
Honourable mention: Ben Keays
Keays featured in all 22 games in season 2021. He was a revelation and an important part of the Crows’ midfield. His season was so consistent that he finished second in the Crows’ best and fairest, behind Rory Laird.
The fact that Keays had the fifth most score involvements on average of any Crows player with an average of 5.68 score involvements per game and the second most inside 50s of any of the Crows players with an average of 5.41 inside 50s per game showed his worth to the team.
Despite being so vital from an attacking perspective, he averaged the most tackles of any Crows player with an average of 6.05 tackles, which indicated he was also willing to work hard defensively.
5. Rory Laird
Laird won the Crows’ best and fairest in season 2021 and was one of their two players that was in the AFL All Australian squad of 40. He averaged the most disposals of any Crows player and the fourth highest disposals on average of any player in the competition with an average of exactly 32 disposals per game, as he relished the opportunity to have more midfield minutes due to Matt Crouch’s injury.
He averaged the most contested possessions of any Crows player with an average of 14.82 contested possessions per game, which was the third highest contested possessions of any player in the competition. He averaged the second most score involvements of any Crows player with an average of 6.27 score involvements per game.
4. Paul Seedsman
Seedsman was selected in the AFL All Australian squad of 40 for season 2021. That’s what a good season he had. He managed to play all 22 games for the Crows and featured in the best players often. He averaged the most inside 50s of any of the Crows players and the fifth highest on average of any player in the competition with an average of 5.68 inside 50s per game.
He averaged the third most disposals of any Crows player with an average of 26.09 disposals per game. He had a higher disposal efficiency percentage on average than Rory Laird, Rory Sloane and Ben Keays, who were all a part of the Crows midfield. Another factor was that Seedsman averaged the second highest metres gained of any Crows players and the fifth most metres gained on average of any player in the competition with an average of 599.09 metres gained.
3. Reilly O’Brien
O’Brien featured in 20 of the 22 games, as he missed the final two games of season 2021 through injury. He averaged the sixth most hitouts of any ruckman in the competition with an average of 29.40 hitouts per game. He only had less than ten disposals in two games.
He averaged the second most contested marks of any Crows player in season 2021, with an average of 1.90 contested marks per game. In Round 22 when the Crows played the Demons without O’Brien in the team the Crows lost by 41 points, while in Round 10, with him in the team they won by one point.
2. Tom Doedee
Doedee featured in all but one of the 22 games that the Crows played in season 2021, which was a game that they lost to the Eagles in Round 18 by 42 points. He had the most intercepts on average of any Crows player in season 2021 and the seventh highest average of any player in the competition with an average of 8.29 intercepts per game.
He averaged the fifth most contested marks for the Crows, with an average of 1.43 contested marks per game. Along with that, he had the fourth highest disposal efficiency percentage of any Crows player with an average of 80.21 per cent disposal efficiency per game. Above all else, he was the Crows’ best key defender and an important part of their system.
1. Taylor Walker
Walker featured in 17 games in season 2021. He had an extremely consistent season, as he only failed to kick a goal in one game, in the Showdown, which was played in Round 8.
Despite that, he averaged the third highest score involvements of any player in the competition with an average of 7.76 score involvements per game. He didn’t play in five games, of which the Crows only won one game, in Round 23, against the wooden spooners the Kangaroos.
They lost four games by an average of 34.5 points per game. In the 17 games that he played, the Crows averaged 76.88 points per game. Remarkably, in the five games in which he didn’t feature, the Crows averaged 61.8 points per game.