To say Adelaide’s start to the 2013 AFL Premiership season has been disappointing for fans would be an understatement. The Crows have only won a single match, in tight conditions against Brisbane at the Gabba, after losing 30-point leads against both Essendon and Port Adelaide and losing their other two matches.
Much has been made of the departure of Kurt Tippett from Adelaide, and the man who took his number and position, Josh Jenkins. It is unrealistic to expect a 14-game player in Jenkins to reach the heights of Tippett, a 104-game player, in his first season.
However, a close look at the statistics shows that not only is Jenkins performing admirably in the position he’s seeking to cement as his own in the Adelaide team, he actually out-performs Tippett in many key areas.
In Tippett’s first season at Adelaide in 2008, he played 19 games, averaging 3.7 kicks, 3.4 handballs, 7.1 disposals, 2.3 marks, 0.9 goals, 0.9 behinds, 1.7 tackles and 6.2 hit-outs per game. In Jenkins’ first season in Adelaide in 2012, he played 11 games, averaging 6.7 kicks, 3.9 handballs, 10.6 disposals, 4.6 marks, 1 goal, 0.3 behinds, 2.2 tackles, 5.6 hit-outs. The only areas Tippett out-performed Jenkins in their first year were hit-outs and the ability to kick behinds.
Fast-forward to 2012. Tippett played 21 games for Adelaide; averaging 8.4 kicks, 3.8 handballs, 12.1 disposals, 5 marks, 1.9 goals, 1.5 behinds. 1.5 tackles. 7.5 hit-outs. In Jenkins’ three games this year, he has averaged; 10 kicks, 1.7 handballs, 11.7 disposals, 6 marks, 1.7 goals, 0.7 behinds, 0.7 tackles and 8.0 hit-outs. In 2012, Tippett managed more handballs, slightly more in goal scoring, considerably more in behinds, and less than Jenkins in hit-outs.
Watching Jenkins, it is clear that despite missing a couple of years of junior footy through his commitment to basketball, unlike Tippett, he is comfortable with a football in his hands, and very comfortable in front of goals. Jenkins is not only on even footing with Tippett – and he’s only played 14 games at the highest level – but he has the potential to far exceed the standards set by Sydney’s new recruit.
In the Adelaide media, many have argued that Jenkins should be parked in the forward pocket and be allowed to focus solely on his goal-kicking, but this would be a disservice to the player, and long term a disservice to the club. Jenkins needs to continue to learn the difficult challenge of mastering two positions at once; pinch hitting in the ruck, and being a second tall option up forward. Robbing him of this opportunity is detrimental to both player and club.
Adelaide’s poor performances this season cannot be blamed on the loss of Tippett, as many members of the squad are underperforming. Bernie Vince currently doesn’t even rank in Adelaide’s top five for clearances, inside 50’s or contested possessions, and Brenton Sanderson has made the right decision in sending him back to the SANFL.
Star performers in Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Thompson are down on their averages from 2012 in all key statistics, ranging from inside 50’s and clearances to contested and uncontested possessions. Nathan van Berlo, who was Adelaide’s top tackler in 2012, doesn’t even register in the top five for his team.
In terms of statistical rankings for the 2013 season, Adelaide’s match averages are poor. It is ranked 11th for marks inside 50 (9.7 per game), 12th for inside 50’s (53 per game), 12th for scoring accuracy (46.6%), 14th for tackles (55 per game), a respectable 9th for hit-outs (37.3), but a dreadful 16th for centre clearances (12.3 per game).
After being a kick short of the AFL Grand Final in 2012, Adelaide are more than a kick short of being in the top 8 in the 2013 season, and it has less to do with the departure of Tippett than it does to do with the entire team not meeting the standards they set in 2012.