AFL Round 12: Adelaide v North Melbourne: Crows’ win more impressive than you might think

By John Kingsmill
I sat in the winter rain with my red Rocky Mountaineer fold-down beanie over my ears; my Kathmandu lightweight altica mountain top, with a fold-up zippered collar that reached the beanie; a $2 plastic poncho over all of that; a waterproof rug over my 56-year-old denim knees; a Crows cushion on the seat; a 5AA earpiece in my ears so that I could be told who was involved in every play; and I felt as warm as toast in the outer, in spite of the cold and the wet.

I thought these things:

The torrid conditions slowed the play down for all players, which meant that Andrew Macleod had more of a chance to stay with the play and thus had one of his better games for the year. He’s on his way out, I suspect. It will be a bold decision for him to play on next year. He still got caught a number of times tonight. It’s time for him to go. Hopefully, he comes to this decision by himself. Unlike Ben Hart, he has more going for him in the outside world – his media commitments and his connections with the Territory – retirement might not be a big decision for him to make.

I was very impressed that on many occasions Patrick Dangerfield put himself into the contest, into the middle of the pack, usually on his knees, and, as he fought for possession of the ball, he also fought as hard as he could to get back onto his feet. On at least three occasions, he emerged from the rabble as not only the one with the ball in his hand, but the only one on his feet.

He’s an intuitively intelligent footballer, this one, destined for great things.

He’s like a baby Riccuito with some Jarman intelligence and straightline orthodoxy in the mix. It will be fascinating to watch him develop over the next five years, to see whether his maturing body and mind will give him a Voss or Riccuito type of strength, or whether he will stay lean and instead acquire a Hird type of reckless courage, or a Wanganeen type of cunning. Or a Judd who has all of those things.

In my view, he has the opportunity to become a premiership-winning champion.
I am glad Craig played him very sparingly last year and is only bringing him on slowly this year.

The ability to stay on your feet in a wet weather contest was a key to much that happened tonight, I thought. The conditions turned single opportunities into multiple opportunities for those who could quickly regain their footing.

Adelaide is well served by little blokes with low centres of gravity who can bounce back up quickly – Tyson Edwards, Porp and Petrenko come to mind. That Dangerfield can do this too, not being little, is a bonus.

Symes and Shirley, in particular, could, I think, learn a lot from studying how Dangerfield worked to get back onto his feet while he was in the middle of a contest. It’s all very well lying there stretched out on the turf, showing the world how intense your effort was. It’s more important to get straight up again. With the ball as a piece of soap, you can assume the next receiver will cough it up too. The play is never complete in the wet.

I loved Chris Knights’ set shot for goal at 50 or 55 metres. He was a long way out with a wet ball. The replay showed his kicking action a number of times.  It was a huge kick, with classic orthodox training motion. Run in evenly paced, guide the ball down, spreadeagle the legs and the arms in diametrically counterbalanced fashion… so that, at the point of contact, all limbs were off the ground.

It was like those photographs of footballers kicking long in training manuals for little kids in the fifties or sixties, or action shots of players like Bob Sherman kicking long on the front page of the Sunday Mail, where you saw how much they got off the ground at the moment of contact. Except that was the manual for just kicking long.

The modern way of kicking a long goal is not a full flight action. It’s more about leaning back, with the back foot anchored and the backbone angled, steering the thing through with controlled accuracy. Knights’ long shot at goal was a fully fleshed kick, “kicking through the ball” in the commentators’ terminology. His kick sailed through the big sticks at 20 or 30 metres’ height. How he managed to get the accuracy with the power is a modern mystery.

And that he has being doing this on the run for the last month is even better. It’s no accident, now.

The slowing down of the game because of the conditions helped Ben Rutten, who has been slow all year. Tonight, he was just as slow, but his straightline approach to the ball helped him. Bock was sensational all night. Bock and Rudd together were sensational. But better than both of those put together was Andy Otten, who played with a calmness and coolness that suggested that he has been an original member of that back Adelaide six, not one of its most recent ring-ins.

Andy Ottens is Ben Hart plus.

Plus what, exactly?

Plus ten more years maybe.

Clean skills, even in the wet, and a very good decision-making mind.

A first-thought player. His first thoughts tonight were always the best thoughts. I look forward to reading his stats tomorrow – his clearances will be high, his clangers will be zero. He’s one of Craig’s perfect system players for now. In a few years’ time, when he has mastered the defensive skills, you can see him also becoming a potential forward at parts of the season, or against particular teams, in a Scott Stevens fashion.

I was intrigued watching little Jared Petrenko playing in defence against North’s small player on debut, Cruize Gartlett. Petrenko came in for Johncock, out with the flu, and it was a good matchup in the end. Little against little. Good coaching by Craig, turning the opportunistic forward crumber into a defensive tag against another little guy. Craig spreads the roles. Quite possibly, Gartlett could have rung rings around Stiffy Johncock who is another straightline player with a large turning axis.

Adelaide played method in the wet, which meant that they had to continue to work hard all night in a lowscoring game where North never looked as if they could win, but didn’t look beaten, either, until the blowout in the last quarter.  Crap opposition, maybe, but still an impressive win because hard work, rather than silky skills, were the call of the night.
At 7-5, with a week off, only a fool would now say that Adelaide will not make the final eight. The big question is whether they can snare that elusive fourth position and get two home finals. If so, watch out!


I have to revise my preseason prediction that Port would finish third and Adelaide eighth by Round 22, and that Port would win both of the showdowns this year.

Port will now struggle to get back in the eight. Mark Williams will be told by the end of June that he will have to reapply for his job next year, with others. Will he walk away from the club at that point, or see out his contract? Port will not be able to afford to pay him out.

Will he hang on because of his pride, or will he walk because of his pride?

His next post-match press conference at AAMI Stadium, when Port play Brisbane on 4 July, will be extremely interesting.

Both gloves will be off.


  1. Peter Schumacher says

    I must say that this was an extremely insightful article. I really liked the analysis of the playing style of those mentioned. Perhaps Adelaide really does have something going for it this year.

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    An old, slow Andrew MacLeod would still be a pleasure to watch.

  3. As a Doggies supporter I was haunted by Andrew McLeod eleven and twelve years ago. I love him as a player but I have this growing sense of dread that he might have one more haunt in him come September…

  4. John, that’s an excellent writeup (and it reflects, and expresses, many of my own thoughts).

    You may be right about McLeod, sadly. He is not having the impact he once had and in particular his disposal is less reliable than it once was. Of the “Big Three” (Goodwin, Edwards, McLeod) I had thought that Goodwin might be the first to go, but yes, it may indeed be Macca. Not because he’s not good enough – half a Macca is good enough – but because there’s a judgement to be made here about “one year too many”. But who could blame him for taking that risk; he loves the game and we won’t love him any less if he fades away in that one last season.

    As for Danger Mouse: what can I say, I was thinking the same. It is just stirring to see him stand up in the pack. He wears the #32 very well, thank you very much. And there was I thinking (last year) that he would be a (very good) skinny, pacey, outside player. Oh, no he’s not. He can do both.

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