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‘New identity’: How do the Crows shape up after the trade and draft period?

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Roar Guru
4th December, 2021
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The Adelaide Crows kick off this year’s trade and draft review series.

I will look at all the players who came to the club since last December’s review, from the supplemental selection period to the mid-season rookie draft, then the actual draft and final list lodgement.

The Crows got off to the very worst start of the season in terms of list rebuilding when troublesome Tyson Stengle breached club rules for the final time, so they had no choice but to release him to the SANFL and cut their losses.

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On the field, results were coming in as they had in the final portion of 2020, with several unexpected wins and plenty of optimism. Yet it wasn’t to last as the narrow wins became narrow defeats and another season became a write-off.

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There were highlights, such as starting the season with a win against the losing grand finalists Geelong, then the thrilling shootout with the Demons where the Crows exposed some real weaknesses in Simon Goodwin’s game plan.

Then there was the seven-goal comeback in Cairns against St Kilda after failing to score a point until over halfway into the second quarter.

However, the wheels really fell off when Taylor Walker went toxic and racially vilified a SANFL player while spectating.

Taylor Walker looks on

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Taylor Walker is many things, but nobody can disagree that his footy does the best talking for him and his mouth is better off shut. For an ex-AFL captain with all that cultural training and development, he could not have been using his brain.

It shouldn’t matter to an article like this because this is just trade and draft analysis, but in terms of Walker’s excellent early-season form, he’s going to be crucial to getting this team back into a culture of winning before the veterans inevitably retire or leave.

Who’s gone?
Bryce Gibbs was technically on the list while playing for South Adelaide, so he at least frees up a roster spot, while veterans Daniel Talia and David Mackay retired as well.

Bryce Gibbs

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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Tom Lynch has not retired, but he is as good as retired for Crows purposes, while Ronin O’Connor was let go without any takers.

Supplementary selection period
The Crows got out to a great start in 2021 in terms of recruitment by picking up ex-Giants academy player Nick Murray, who had captained Murray Bushrangers in the NAB League. He is a developing key defender who will continue in 2022 with Adelaide.

Mid-season rookie draft
After delisting Tyson Stengle in the off-season, Adelaide had a position of need at small forward, so they went back to the Murray Bushrangers to choose undrafted small defender Patrick Parnell at pick four. He managed to play a handful of games in the SANFL with his former Bushrangers teammate picked in the pre-season.

Free agency
Adelaide’s only involvement in free agency this year was to watch Jake Kelly walk to the Bombers, although they did come out of it with a third-round compensation selection.

Jake Kelly crestfallen after another loss

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Trade
Adelaide’s trade period was busy and fruitful, landing homesick Jordan Dawson. But the road to get to that point was one of the more complicated of the entire period and possibly the best outcome in a ready-made player who is an upgrade on their free-agency loss.

The Crows entered a dizzying four-club mega-trade designed to give different benefits to each club, which by and large it did.

Melbourne got back into this year’s first round, the Bulldogs traded back for a points surplus to match for Sam Darcy, while the Saints moved back strategically to get picks and points for their stable of next generation academy players.

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However, it was Adelaide who got the most out of the deal having put up a massive six picks from the second to fourth rounds, then getting back the Demons’ future first and sliding back ten places in the second round.

A huge cost in terms of draft points, but it meant that the Crows did not have to part with or split their top pick in order to satisfy Sydney with Melbourne’s future first for Jordan Dawson.

Draft
Patterns emerge at clubs and the Crows had one particular secret blown open after picking their third Murray Bushranger in a row and fourth overall in Josh Rachele at pick six, which really did fill a glaring position of need for the list that had gone unaddressed at previous drafts.

AFL-generic

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Having traded back toward the end of the second round, Adelaide were happy to land slider Jake Soligo, who is a midfielder/forward who played some VFL for Richmond before the lockdown.

With their third pick early in the third round, the Crows went back to the Victorian well for the fifth time in 2021 to get yet another small midfielder/forward in Zac Taylor from the Calder Cannons.

Pre-season draft
The increasingly irrelevant pre-season draft once again benefited the Crows, who last year walked Jackson Hately back home to South Australia with the top pick and only pick in the pre-season draft.

This time around, after being spooked that another team were planning to take their preferred player in the rookie draft, Adelaide grabbed Luke Nankervis in the second of two players in this year’s pre-season draft.

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Re-rookie
Having snared their main target, the Crows re-rookied Ben Davis, but took no further part in the rookie draft process.

The verdict
Adelaide ripped in and churned over their list during their rebuild, adding young talent that will move forward together over the next few years as the club endures an uncustomary period in the lower regions of the ladder.

This is a team that suffered the sudden death of their coach in the season and then lost a grand final it had been favoured to win.

Looking back, the Kurt Tippett affair robbed the Crows of their potentially best players right now when they were kicked out of the draft, then the notorious camp damaged the culture in the team and players ran for the exits.

The Crows’ rebuild has unofficially been going on for a few years and this relatively small turnover of players is more a sign of consolidation than trying to fix everything at once.

Matthew Nicks, Senior Coach of the Crows

(Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Josh Rachele is a high-quality talent who might otherwise have gone earlier than pick six depending on who was picking. His forward craft and potential to go into the middle is exactly what the faithful had been cawing for, with credible comparisons to Toby Greene.

Jake Soligo is a midfield accumulator with a penchant for tackling and marking. He was touted as a first-rounder during the actual NAB League season but fell away as the lockdown recruitment process ground its way down to draft day, like his comparison Lachie Neale did too.

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Zac Taylor is another midfielder with forward versatility who racks up possessions, likes to tackle and can launch the ball into inside 50 to find a target, which is why the Crows have gone for a similar player again.

In-season acquisitions Nick Murray and Patrick Parnell will push during the off-season to find spots in Adelaide’s new-look defence as it evolves with the young quartet of Murray Bushrangers, including incumbent Jordan Butts and their top draft pick in Josh Rachele.

However, the whole Crows post-season strategy was to land Jordan Dawson, which is a key in their rebuilding process that may just unlock a rise up the ladder.

His game went to new levels in 2021 with elite intercept marking, rebound out of defensive 50 and launching into forward 50.

Final word
The Crows have copped a lot of criticism in the media since their ignominious grand final defeat, yet the 2022 team will look vastly different as the club rebuilds its list and looks to find a new identity.

Successive drafting periods heavy on talent will give third-year coach Matthew Nicks the building blocks he needs to shape his game plan around.

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