Five fresh ideas to improve the Crows


A record-high loss in the showdown, A 53-point drubbing to the wooden spooners, and now sitting dead last on the ladder for the first time in the club’s 30-year history; it’s safe to say that the Adelaide Crows have become the new laughing stock of the AFL. It does beg the question; How can the Crows improve on these dreadful performances?


It goes without saying that Crows have their fair share of off-field issues, namely anything Mark Ricciuto tweets at the moment. In spite of this, the sole focus here will be on ideas that the Crows should put in place to boost their recent on-field efforts. Quite frankly, they can’t be any worse than they’ve been so far this season, and some fresh ideas might be just what the crows need right now. So without any further ado, here are the 5 tactical decisions the crows should implement to prevent this season from being a complete embarrassment.



  1. Play Sloane in the forwardline


Now I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would you waste the crows’ best on-baller’s talents by sticking him forward? Well there are a few reasons why I believe this idea could work.


After watching the Gold Coast game on the weekend, the only time the Crows looked even remotely competitive inside 50 was when they threw Sloane in there towards the end of the game. Despite not scoring any goals himself, he clearly provided a unique point of difference and gave the defenders something to worry about.


If he had a more permanent role up forward, he would almost certainly force the opposition’s best defender onto him. This would relieve a lot of pressure put on young and upcoming Adelaide forward Darcy Fogarty, who hasn’t been getting much help from his teammates in recent times. If he were to have a second-rate defender playing on him for a majority of the game, however, it could go a long way in aiding his development.


Just to be clear, I don’t think Sloane should spend 100% of the game up forward. I think this tactic would work best if he played a similar role to that of a Jordan De Goey or a Michael Walters. That is, play around about 70 per cent of game time forward and only move up into the midfield if the team are really struggling and need to wrestle back some momentum. This would make the Crows more dynamic and unpredictable, as well as taking some of the pressure off of the young and upcoming Adelaide forwards.


  1. Bring Gibbs back in


One glaring problem with taking Sloane out of the midfield is that it could weaken the Crows output from stoppages. Having said that (on paper at least) the Crows have a pretty decent midfield even without Sloane. The Crouch brothers are both A-grade talents and Reilly O’Brien has the potential to take his game to the next level after a fantastic 2019 season. Completing those these three is the outside run of players like Smith, Atkins, Milera and Seedsman, who are all good players in their own right.


Sufficed to say, being good on paper doesn’t necessarily equate to being good on gameday. The Crows were utterly annihilated by Gold Coast in the middle of the ground on the weekend, getting smashed 38 to 25 in clearances and 56 to 28 in inside 50s. Bringing Bryce Gibbs back into the team could not only help fill the Sloane hole, but also could help improve on their abysmal midfield performance against the suns on the weekend.


The one slight hiccup in this plan is that Gibbs is currently extremely out of form. Having said that, there is a clear solution to this dilemma. If the Crows stop persisting with playing Gibbs at half-back and assure him of a more defined midfield role, it should instil him with some much-needed confidence in his ability. This should hopefully go a long way in helping recapture the form that warranted his move to the Crows in the first place. As is true with all great players like Gibbs, form is temporary but class is permanent.


  1. Get Brodie Smith back where he’s best


Another Crows player who is currently playing in a position he isn’t used to is Brodie Smith.  The speed demon starred as a running half-back last season after suffering a long-term knee injury the year prior. For some inexplicable reason though, Matthew Nicks has decided to plug him into the midfield. The only logic I can see behind this move is to add some pace in the middle of the park. This logic has backfired, however, as it has resulted in the Crows looking unimaginative and flat-footed down back. Having a player like Smith, who is able to break a line to help transition from defence into attack, is something desperately needed by the Crows at the moment.


Another reason it would be beneficial for Smith to make this move is so that he could take the Crows’ kick-ins. One of the things that was very noticeable in the first quarter of the Gold Coast game was how easily the Suns were able to turn the ball over after scoring a behind. All 7 of Adelaide’s kick-ins in the first quarter were hit long and wide in hope by Rory Laird and Luke Brown respectively. In almost every case, the ball was turned over immediately. Brown has never been known for his ball distribution and although Laird is very good by foot, he doesn’t usually take many kick-ins due to the lack of depth in his kicking. If Brodie Smith was put back into defence, he could handle a majority of the kick-in load and would be able to be a bit more adventurous and effective in that role than his other teammates.


  1. Get Chayce Jones out of the midfield


It was scary how easily the Gold Coast midfield were able to outmuscle and outbody their opponents on the weekend. A big reason for this was because of Adelaide’s decision to play draft prospect Chayce Jones almost entirely in the midfield.


There’s no doubt that Jones has ability, but his body simply isn’t ready to be a full-time midfielder yet. The Crows should try and follow a similar blueprint to what the Bombers did with Andrew McGrath’s development in regards to Jones.


The Bombers’ 2017 no.1 draft pick played predominantly off half back in his first couple of seasons, which helped him develop his ball skills and gave him a chance to bulk up a bit. Now in his third season, he has made the switch to the midfield and is reaping the rewards of his gradual ease into this role.


Similarly, the Crows should get more out of Jones if they play him as a half-forward-flanker who occasionally attends centre bounces, leaving a majority of the midfield leg work to the experience and talent of Gibbs, Sloane and the Crouch brothers.


  1. Drop Tex and employ the Richmond model


It’s no secret that the big Texan hasn’t been the same player since the 2017 Grand Final. He’s been in and out of form in the seasons proceeding their grand final loss, but he has hit a new low point this year, only managing a dismal 3 goals and 5 marks across his first 3 games. This simply isn’t a good enough output for a player of his ability. Giving Walker the axe should give him a desperately needed wake-up call and would also send a statement to the rest of the team that no one is too good to get dropped.


Omitting Walker would mean a new-look forwardline for the Crows, especially if Chayce Jones and Rory Sloane were to go down there more permanently as discussed earlier. One player that could be most beneficial to fill the Tex Walker void, however, is Tom Lynch. Lynch would be perfect to play a role similar to the one Jack Riewoldt played in the tigers’ 2017 premiership team. If the Crows can get their small forward brigade to focus on the pressure side of their game and have Lynch as the main Centre-Half-Forward using his footy smarts to create goal scoring opportunities, it would make for a much more dangerous Adelaide forwardline than the one we’ve seen in the first 3 rounds this season.


This model would also be beneficial for Darcy Fogarty, who probably isn’t ready yet to play a full season, and this forward structure would mean he could rotate in and out of the side with Walker depending on their respective forms. This would also be beneficial for Walker and the Crows as a whole, as it means that the former captain can focus more on his leadership qualities around the club off-field as he begins to move into the twilight of his career.


What the lineup will look like:

B:            J. Kelly                 D. Talia               L. Brown

HB:        B. Smith               T. Doedee           R. Laird

C:           D. Mackay           B. Gibbs               P. Seedsman

HF:          B. Keays              T. Lynch              R. Sloane

F:            B. Crocker           D. Fogarty           L. Murphy

Foll:       R. O’Brien           B. Crouch            M. Crouch

Int:         C. Jones             W. Hamill            F. McAsey           T. Stengle


IN: D. Mackay, B. Gibbs, T. Stengle

OUT: R. Atkins (Shoulder), T. Walker (omitted), N. McHenry (Omitted)




Mackay comes in as a like-for-like replacement for Atkins, who suffered a shoulder injury last week. Gibbs takes Sloane’s position in the midfield, pushing the Adelaide captain forward. Both Gibbs and Mackay should add some much-needed experience to the crows’ midfield. Lynch replaces Walker in the forwardline, who should help create more goals for the smaller forwards like Stengle, who comes in to replace young McHenry. Stengle should be able to pass on some of his previous club’s forward pressure ideology and offers far more to the team than McHenry, who isn’t quite up to AFL standard yet. Smith reclaims his former position at half-back, pushing youngster McAsey to the bench to provide a chop-out option for the tall defenders. Jones also drops to the bench, with him, Keays and Sloane taking turns rotating through the Half-Forwardline/Midfield. Hamill retains his spot on the bench after a solid debut, providing a rotation option for the half-backs and wingers.





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  1. Kieran Dempsey says

    Insightful analysis Declan. Worth forwarding to the Adelaide coach.
    I love Tex myself but there is something seriously amiss at the Crows.
    Keep writing.

  2. good read…but not sure it would change much. At the moment we are just rotating the cattle which ability wise is much the same, nothing outstanding.In my opinion we should just forget about Gibbs , he has had plenty of chances to prove he can regain some form and has not clicked.Its going to be a long season as i dont think our juniors are ready yet..still need development time and gym work by the looks of them so i would be tempted to play all our so called second tier players such as Poholke, Himmelberg,Knight(when fit) Frampton,McAdam…i would be confident of effort if nothing else from this bunch as their careers are on the give them a long run and see what they can give us for the future.

  3. Dave Brown says

    Interesting ideas, Declan, thanks for sharing. I think Sloane need to stay in the mids but concede he would be useful heading forward more often as he heads into his 30s. Who knows where Gibbs is up to – terrible trade a year too late and way too costly. The reality at the moment is the Crows have the weakest midfield in the comp – rotations rely on a large number of players and two Crouches and a Sloane just won’t cut it these days.

    Walker was 10th in the Coleman last year and only played 14 games in 2018. While he could certainly be kicking more goals, the concept that he’s no good anymore is mostly built from confirmation bias from people who dislike him every time the Crows have a game where they barely get the ball inside 50. Stop getting smashed in the midfield and his output will improve – dropping him with no reserves competition will not achieve anything imo except further deprive the club of leadership.

    In my opinion, on field what is needed most is patience. Nicks has had three games as coach, working with a squad that was not of his making, that has been hollowed out of prime age experience while young players have been starved of opportunity in recent times. Since the draft sanctions, Crows draftees in the first two rounds have on average played 10 fewer games than the draftees either side of them (i.e. Chayce Jones (Pick 9 2018) has played 11 games while Tarryn Thomas (pick 8) has played 23 and Nick Blakey (pick 10) has played 24).

    This season is already a write-off for the Crows and Nicks needs to be backed in to build the strategy and the squad he needs for the Crows to be competitive which may take a few weeks or a couple of years. It doesn’t make them fun to watch at the moment but such is life. Fixing the off field stuff – now that’s where the focus should be!

  4. Here’s my two bobs’ worth. Firstly they moved on too many good players at end of last season (too late to fix that one). Next is the big one. Centre square clearances must be tidied up. O’Brien not cutting the mustard yet. Crouch brothers completely over rated. Both get plenty of possession, mainly defensive handballs that don’t hurt the opposition. When winning the ball in the square they move it sideways with those piddling handballs instead of belting it down the guts to a fast leading forward (Tex). Both should be traded at first opportunity.

    Tex Walker is a natural goal kicker and should be played closer to goals. With the ball continually in Adelaide’s defense he is forced into the back lines too often to get a kick or back up a play. I’d play him at full forward. At centre half forward I’d like to see traffic cop type probably Talia. Gibbs (a complete waste of money), McKay and Hartigan should be moved on as soon as possible.

    Young guns such as Fogarty and Jones should be persevered with. It’s going be long hard but the fans need to get behind Coach Nicks and let him work with the group.

  5. Michael F says

    Bringing Gibbs and McKay back doesn’t equal “fresh ideas” in my book. Also Stengle still has two more games of his ban to serve so I’m not sure why you’ve got him coming back into the side.

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