In 2012, under first time senior Coach Brenton Sanderson – flush with success from his stint as an assistant at Geelong – the Adelaide Football Club were developing into a surprisingly potent outfit. After managing to get within a kick of the Grand Final, no-one could have predicted just how dour the 2013 season would be for the Crows.
The team lost 104-game forward Kurt Tippett and the consequences of rule breaches saw club CEO Steven Trigg suspended, the reputation of the club tarnished, the bank accounts lightened and future draft picks stripped. The penalties were rightfully heavy, and set the season off to a shaky start. When Adelaide’s remaining experienced key forward in Taylor Walker went down, most fans of the game put a line through the Crows’ chances of making the finals.
Lack of draft selections, combined with a dearth of key position players in the 2013 draft, meant that Adelaide had to recruit aggressively. With plenty of space in the salary cap, Eddie Betts was acquired as a free agent on a multimillion dollar four year deal, as well as James Podsiadly, who signed on a two year deal after he was not offered a new contract by Geelong.
While Chris Knights hadn’t performed as brilliantly as he did in his 2009 breakout season, he was an experienced small forward who left for Richmond and he was often replaced in the forward line in 2013 by Patrick Dangerfield. The pressure to provide a winning score was weighted on the shoulders of young players Josh Jenkins (11 games before 2013), Tom Lynch (12 games before 2013) and Shaun McKernan (23 games before 2013).
The recruitment of 184 game player Betts is a stroke of genius, especially if the pre-season games are anything to go by, with five goals to his name in his first hit-out for his new club, Eddie will find plenty of ball to hunt in the Crows’ attacking 50, and is therefore a great chance of reaching his brilliant 2011/2012 form of 50 and 48 goals respectively.
Aside from raw goal kicking power, the pressure Eddie provides in the forward line is outstanding; even in 2013 playing further up the ground under Malthouse, he managed 27 goals and a whopping 62 tackles in an interrupted season.
While Podsiadly is 32 years old, it is important to remember that he has only been playing at the elite level since 2010, so his body hasn’t suffered the rigours of many AFL players. However, he has the advantage of having played over 120 games at VFL level, and of course, considerable finals and premiership experience.
Podsiadly brings a great football mind, an excellent target, and will be a great foil for the inexperienced Jenkins and McKernan. This is particularly important given Tom Lynch injured his shoulder during a practice match and is facing a month out, with Taylor Walker still out through injury — which his comeback rumoured to be as late as round 15.
Adelaide have managed to turn adversity into prosperity. The re-injection of Patrick Dangerfield into the midfield on a more permanent basis as well as experienced players Betts and Podsiadly to shore up the forward line could see the Crows appearing in September once more in 2014.