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One kick away from the top 8 last year, can the Adelaide Crows continue their AFL ascent?

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Roar Rookie
5th March, 2024
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Last year: 10th (11 Wins 12 Losses)

2024 ladder prediction: 4th (17-6)

The Crows enter 2024 as September hopefuls after being a kick away from reaching their first finals campaign since 2017 when they lost to Richmond in the Grand Final. Coach Matthew Nicks has stated the plan is to challenge the top teams much like last year and be there first week of Finals. But do they have the talent needed to be competitive?

Players surround Jordan Dawson of the Crows after kicking the winning goal during Showdown 51.

Crows players celebrate with Jordan Dawson. (Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The big question coming into this season is can the defensive unit prevent lapses whilst the offensive side fires? It’s no secret Adelaide’s attack is lethal, leading the competition in total points per game in the 2023 season, however with a mix of injuries and the departure of a key defensive player, there are concerns that the Crows young defence may struggle against the elite forwards of the competition.

The loss of Tom Doedee to Brisbane is certainly one that stings, but the Crows have drafted well by selecting key defender Daniel Curtin from Claremont as a way to potentially fill the void left by Doedee. They also recruited key position player Chris Burgess from the Gold Coast Suns.

Injuries to Mark Keane (concussion) and Nick Murray (knee) leave the defence stretched thin to start the year. In order for Adelaide to reach the summit of finals football, it is essential they remain healthy and continue to work well in defence – because relying on their attack will only get them so far.

Key insKey outs
Daniel Curtin (Pick 8)Paul Seedsman (retired)
Chris Burgess (trade, Gold Coast)Tom Doedee (free agency, Brisbane)
Shane McAdam (trade, Melbourne)
Jackson Hately (delisted)
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I believe Sam Berry is due for a breakout season after only netting 4 games last year due to a mixture of injury and competition for a spot in the best 23. Initially, I was going to give this selection to Riley Thilthorpe but as of writing, Thilthorpe is set to miss the start of the season with a meniscus tear.

Adelaide Crows players.

Izak Rankine and the Crows walk off after a loss. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Berry was electric in the preseason game against West Coast, where he looked back at his best utilising clean skills via foot and even managed to get forward and snag a couple of goals. While Adelaide’s starting midfield seems to be set in concrete with the likes of Jordan Dawson, Rory Laird and Matt Crouch, I’m sure the selectors will be able to find a spot in the 23. But Berry will have to certainly work hard in order to cement his spot, with other young stars like Jake Soligo and Izak Rankine looking to move into the midfield. Out of contract at the end of 2024, this season is make or break for Berry.

The player under the most pressure for the Crows is certainly Elliot Himmelberg. Picked 51st in the 2016 National Draft, Himmelberg has remained on the list for 7 full seasons now and has only mustered 41 senior games. With Thilthorpe looking like he will miss 4-10 weeks with his knee injury, now is the time for Himmelberg to put his hand up for selection and play consistent football.

After starting the season in the best 22, he was quickly dropped after Round 2 against Richmond where he had little to no impact on the game. Ironically, he was dropped for Thilthorpe, who then proceeded to kick 5 the next week.

Elliot has been a great servant for the club, but if he is not able to capitalise on the opportunity presented to him I believe it is a certainty that the Crows will no longer require his services, especially with young key forward Lachlan Gollant ahead of him in the pecking order looking to take over that third tall role once Taylor Walker calls time on his career.

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Taylor Walker looks on

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

I believe Adelaide can finish top four this year. Now you may be thinking this is an extreme jump compared to last season, but hear me out.

The fixture the Crows have been given is certainly a lot better than last year, with more games in Melbourne and less on subpar grounds. While the Crows’ road record was not superb last season, they certainly took it to the elite teams in the competition, which leads me to believe that when playing against those middle of the pack teams, they will have much better fortunes.

This year the Crows play Geelong, Hawthorn, Essendon, Brisbane, Sydney and Port Adelaide twice, a strong mix of teams. It is no secret Adelaide play significantly better at the Adelaide Oval and with plenty of winnable games there, I believe they will be more than enough for the Crows to have enough points to be in contention for a finals position.

In their first 5 weeks, the Crows have; Gold Coast (away), Geelong (home), Fremantle (away), Melbourne (home) and Carlton (away).

Matthew Nicks, Senior Coach of the Crows

Adelaide Crows coach Matthew Nicks. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

There is no reason that Adelaide can’t go 5-0, however, I have them winning all those games except Round 5 against Carlton to start with a 4-1 record. With an easier fixture this season and another preseason under the belt for many of the young players, I strongly believe that the 4th spot is warranted for the Crows, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if they slid down to 6th-8th due to a lack of consistency.

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The new movement of Izak Rankine into the midfield adds a new dynamic to the Crows midfield, which struggles with pace already. With the strong forward line consisting of Taylor Walker, Darcy Fogarty, Josh Rachele, the sky is the limit in terms of what they can achieve.

In short, I believe Adelaide will make a huge leap in terms of performance this year and with Matthew Nicks stating he believes the side is good enough for finals, the only way I can see this season being a success is if Adelaide make a return to the finals.

With a superb young core, a lethal attack, and some minor changes in terms of the lineup, don’t be surprised to see Adelaide sitting well within the 8.

Final 3 words: “Finals or bust”

North Melbourne Kangaroos
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Collingwood Magpies
7.00
1.10
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Sun, 16 Jun 2024, 13:00
Greater Western Sydney Giants
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Port Adelaide Power
1.52
2.55
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Sun, 16 Jun 2024, 16:00
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