Adelaide-Crows

Story Of The Summer

From preliminary final darlings in 2012 to September bystanders in 2013, the Crows’ fall from grace was never unexpected due to the departure of Kurt Tippett, but it was also cruel with the injury Gods playing a lead role. Due to no fault of their own Adelaide lost forward Taylor Walker, a key cog who a season prior ranked inside the league’s top 10 for marks inside 50 and contributed the eighth most total points of any player in the competition which practically ended their early ambitions.

With no Tippett and Walker this left the key forward onus to fall upon relatively inexperienced duo Josh Jenkins and Tom Lynch. The pair performed admirably combining for 57 goals but it was clear a force of Walker’s nature was too much of an absence to overcome.

Ian Callinan was great in the small forward role in 2012 finishing with 38 goals but would manage just six games in 2013. With little production from a small forward Patrick Dangerfield would become a focal point inside 50 and finished just two goals behind Tom Lynch in the Crows’ goal kicking. With the Crows skipper the second most targeted player inside 50 for the season it was clear that the recruiting team would have to invest in proven small forward talent. To their credit the brass recognised the need and the acquisition of Eddie Betts should prove invaluable in a number of ways, namely allowing Dangerfield to thrive predominantly in the centre square.

The silver lining behind the Crows depleted forward line was being forced to invest game time in both Jenkins and Lynch which in essence has beefed up their key forward arsenal. With Walker, Jenkins and Lynch all healthy, and new acquisitions Eddie Betts and James Podsiadly the Crows should have a much more damaging spread.

Where They Excel

Although down on output from 2012 the Crows’ strength remains their midfield and 2013 saw them develop classy youth in Brad Crouch, Brodie Smith, Mitch Grigg and Jarryd Lyons to the already established quality names in Dangerfield, Scott Thompson, Rory Sloane and Richard Douglas. That Crows depth will be tested early with the loss of Nathan Van Berlo for the first quarter of the season with leadership and a seasoned tank always difficult to replace. Losing Bernie Vince will also leave a hole in Adelaide’s rotations with the rejuvenated Matthew Wright the logical choice to step in due to his past experience rotating at the coalface.

The key to Adelaide’s success in 2012 was their ability to press their advantage at stoppages and 2013 saw their output drop considerably although it was in part due to a change in focus. The lethal Thompson/Dangerfield duo combined for 305 clearances in the 2012 home and away season (132 of them centre clearances) but experienced a drop in output to 222 clearances in 2013 (99 centre clearances). This saw the Crows drop from number one for clearances and contested possession differential in 2012 to the seventh and eighth ranked side in those areas a year later.

With turnovers becoming the golden nugget of modern day football Adelaide to their credit improved their usage and spread from 16th to ninth for kicking efficiency and from 11th to fourth for uncontested disposals. The issue for Adelaide in 2013 wasn’t how they went about winning the football (bottom line, they experienced more inside 50s than the season prior) the problem was locating scoring punch, specifically a Taylor Walker or Kurt Tippett level commodity.

The forward line may have been broken but it didn’t completely remove the Crows midfield from all blame. In 2012 Adelaide were the best side in the competition for limiting opposition scores from stoppages, in 2013 they dropped to ninth. The positive was their more methodical approach limited opposition teams burning them on the counter with the Crows improving from the 16th-ranked side for points conceded from turnovers to seventh.

Hiccups On The Horizon

With a treasure chest of forward options in 2012 the Crows were one of the most damaging scoring outfits in the competition. Despite the midfield accumulating more inside 50s in 2013 the ability to hit the scoreboard compared to the season prior was worlds apart with Adelaide dropping from league leaders in goal scoring efficiency to 12th. This suggests the midfield continued to do its job but just lacked a clear go to man up forward with the issue compounded by teams rebounding at ease.

After the injury to Taylor Walker the health and consistency of summer acquisition Eddie Betts will be a relief for Crows fans. Betts has never played fewer than 17 games in a season and has averaged between 11 and 13 disposals in every season since 2006. Betts may have performed below par in the eye of many from a goal kicking perspective last season but you can attribute that to playing higher up the ground under Mick Malthouse.

Despite the lack of opportunity Betts still finished second to only Jeff Garlett for total points contributed at Carlton (325) and maintained his team first approach which has seen him average 39 score assists per season since 2009. With the slew of big men likely to receive the bulk of attention you can bank on Betts to thrive for the Crows.

Fellow new recruit James Podsiadly contributed a handy 30 goals at the Cats last season but also proved to possess a streak of versatility in his game playing high up the ground and even down back which could come in handy as the Crows redefine their attack. Despite his public assurances and impressive preseason, at 32 years of age it’s hard to envision any improvement from Podsiadly and last season it became evident that his one on one work was declining. If anything Podsiadly should serve as sufficient insurance whilst the Crows nurse Walker back to peak fitness and iron out their most lucrative forward setup in a bid to emulate the efficient production of 2012.

Year

Marks Inside 50

Total Goals

Scoring Efficiency

Goal Scoring Efficiency

Scores from Marks

2012

2nd

2nd

2nd

1st

1st

2013

13th

9th

9th

11th

12th

The Skinny

If the injury Gods play nice you can guarantee the Crows forward line will drastically improve. We have already highlighted the ability of their midfield with the one question mark how coach Brenton Sanderson plans to severely drop their interchange rotations which were the second highest in the competition. If there was a concern about Adelaide’s midfield it’s related to their depth. Matthew Wright, Brodie Smith and David Mackay are guilty of inconsistency. Mitch Grigg, Brad Crouch, Jarryd Lyons, Sam Kerridge and Matt Crouch, although highly impressive, are still learning the ropes.

If Adelaide returns to the heights of 2012 it will be on the back of a settled forward line, youth producing an early leap and B-graders developing into A-graders. Outside of the upgraded forward line nothing is set in stone but opportunity will be plentiful with draft sanctions making the blooding of youth a logical priority.

Defensively there should be minimal concerns with the Crows back six as sound as ever ranking top five in the competition for fewest marks inside 50 conceded and recording the fifth lowest opposition scoring efficiency despite allowing the ninth most entries per game.

Although many still remain, Adelaide approaches season 2014 with increased security and fewer question marks. They’ll be keen to hit the ground running with their opening fixtures against quality opposition in Geelong, Port Adelaide and Sydney. There will also be a heavy focus on turning Adelaide Oval into a fortress. In 2012 the Crows recorded an 11-1 record in local fixtures, this dropped to 5-7 in 2013.

Ladder Range: 5-12

Best 22

B: R.Laird, B.Rutten, L.Brown

HB: B.Smith, D.Talia, R.Henderson

C: S.Thompson, B.Crouch, M.Wright

HF: J.Podsiadly, T.Lynch, M.Grigg

F: E.Betts, T.Walker, R.Douglas

Foll: S.Jacobs, P.Dangerfield, R.Sloane

Int: A.Otten, J.Jenkins, N.Van Berlo

S: J.Lyons

 

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

All data courtesy of AFL.com.au, Herald Sun, Footywire and Foxsports