Almanac Season Review: Adelaide – Premiership schmemiership

ADE

In 1997 and 1998 did the Adelaide Football Club use up a couple of decades worth of good fortune? Libba’s kick floats through (or the goal umpire correctly calls it depending on whether you prefer white or gold) or Mark West kicks straight running into the 50 or Chris Grant puts a shepherd on for Paul Hudson and the Crows wouldn’t even have made the 1997 Grand Final let alone won it. The Roos kick straight in the first half of the ’98 Grand Final and the hole would’ve been too big for even Darren Jarman to extract the Ravens.

Of course it’s silly superstition but deep (or not so deep) down many Crows fans feel we are now paying for that obscene good fortune. It’s particularly topical at the moment as some in the GWS camp try to portray the Crows’ entry conditions into the competition as comparably over the top while others are calling this Bulldog year the greatest coaching effort in the AFL. Nah, not even close – the AFL is trying to build a market in GWS, so requires success. In the Crows they merely sought to exploit an existing market.

The Crows had a few months to build a team from a league that had been pillaged by the VFL in the 1980s. The top end talent that remained, Darren Jarman, the AFL allowed to be poached as it dragged its organisational feet in providing the club with access to player contracts. South Australians did and will watch footy win or lose, wallets at the ready. For example twice as many people watched this year’s semi final on the TV in little old Adelaide as watched it in Sydney. GWS and the Crows are incomparable for so many reasons. And when Bevo backs it up next year, then we’ll talk about greatest coaching efforts.

Since 1998 the Crows have been consistently competitive. They have featured in 22 finals across those 18 seasons. Five more than any other team that has not won a premiership across that period. So from that perspective, 2016 was another sad sack season for the Crows. Another dance with sisterly mediocrity. Once again providing the finals narrative of other clubs – the Washington Generals of the AFL.

Bugger that!

Are we seriously upset that our team is consistently competitive? Would we rather follow one of a number of teams that almost never make the finals? Two years to the day that Brenton Sanderson was sacked we played in our second consecutive semi final. In that time the Crows have: had two senior coaches, losing one in tragic circumstances; one interim coach; lost its best player to another club, but; made the second week of finals in both years. And we seriously want to mope about it? Clear the club out? It is hugely impressive and reflects a club that is resilient, developing a culture that can have sustained success. Leave the mopings of the terminally pessimistic to other clubs that do it so much better.

So what follows is an unremittingly optimistic view of the Crows’ 2016 season and 2017 prospects, offering up almost unconditionally high esteem to a group that has earned it, if just for a season or two.

The good

  • Attractive – when on song the Crows are the most attractive, attacking team to watch in the competition. Forcing turnovers at half back and then quickly releasing the ball to overlap runners with the forwards sprinting to goal is an absolute joy to watch. Phil Walsh was keen on the fact that coaches have a duty to the game and Don Pyke has carried on in that tradition.
  • Resourceful – the downside of the Crows being perennially competitive is they never get access to top draft picks. In fact the highest drafted player on the list is Wayne Milera at 11 (although you could argue Brad Crouch is). Combine that with a couple of seasons of draft sanctions, the entries of Gold Coast and GWS and the Crows have no choice but to be resourceful with their recruiting. Sloane, Walker, Laird, Atkins, Cameron – all were picked by the Crows after pick 40 in the draft. Add to that recruitment of players undervalued at other clubs – Betts, Jacobs, Betts, Jenkins and Betts – the Crows have certainly proved canny recruiters. Particularly when you consider Dangerfield, Davis, Gunston and Tippett have all foolishly run off interstate in recent years. Ok, so one of them now has three premiership medallions and one played in a Grand Final this year but let’s focus on the intent, not the outcome.
  • Emerging players – the Crows had seven players in the ’22 players under 22′ squad of 40 this year – astounding! There is still plenty of development to come in Lever, Laird, Cameron, the Crouches, Atkins and McGovern. Pull the right levers (sorry) and the Crows’ time is coming, it is not yet here.
  • Eddie freaking Betts – football should be as much about finding joy in its moments as winning premierships. As Australian National (SA’s Commonwealth owned non-metropolitan railway provider until John Howard sold everything) used to sing, getting there is half the fun. In Eddie Betts we have the embodiment of pure footballing joy, whenever he goes near the ball. If you ask me if I’d rather get to enjoy that 20 times a year for the the best part of 10 years or a premiership, I’d say ‘both, thanks’. After several hours of being forced to listen to “You’re Gorgeous” by Baby Bird I’d eventually scream ‘Eddie 20!’.
  • The wins – the Crows had some great wins in 2016. Home wins over Sydney and GWS demonstrated what the club could do against good sides while an away win over West Coast, holding them scoreless in a quarter at Subiaco for the first time ever, was a season defining moment. In fact, both West Coast games were. Plus, hey ho, three Showdowns in a row!

The not quite so good

  • Kicking under pressure – sure the Crows may have been the footballing equivalent of flat track bullies in 2016 but at least they were consistent about it, dispatching every team that deserved it without fail… except for Round 23. The better teams, though, were able to slow the Crows down and expose their kicking under pressure. Particularly in defence. There’s lots of talk about the need for a Plan B (including from me). At the end of the day it’s tosh (except when I say it) – they need to consistently deliver Plan A under pressure, which includes making better decisions and being more precise by foot when they need to be.
  • Dealing with teams that don’t get sucked up the ground – the Crows struggled with this in 2016, particularly against Geelong. They ensured their back six did not get caught off guard when the Crows got the footy. They were able to keep the forwards honest, much like the Democrats but with fewer Natasha Stott-Despojas. This will be a key tactic against the Crows next year and they need to find ways to pick their way through.
  • The midfield dilemma – the biggest knock on the Crows this year has been it’s just a bit light on in the midfield. They really could have done with a strong, explosive midfielder – ideally from Moggs Creek with a cool grandad. The Crows got monstered by the Sydney midfield and can’t let that happen next year. The Crouches will lift and maybe, just maybe, the lifters will crouch.
  • Players that may have had their day – the flip side of the continued emergence of the youngsters was that some blokes that seemed past their best. Thompson, Douglas, Henderson and Mackay were up and down while Van Berlo and Jaensch have already retired. There are young players ready for their shot at the spots of all those players except maybe Thompson. No one who wasn’t formerly Governor of California has arms that big.
  • The 2016 flag was pinchable – this was the one that hurt the most. No one was that good this year. Geelong was suspect up forward, the Bulldogs just needed to lose an ounce of intensity, the Swans were comparatively inexperienced and the Giants were very inexperienced. The Bulldogs snatched it and had the chips fallen another way (with or without chicken salt) it could’ve been the Crows.
  • We stupid – so, when the AFL releases a draft Round 23 schedule and you don’t like being rostered on a Monday night, maybe stop and think twice when the AFL turns around and says “ok, you got us, how about Friday night instead?” Particularly if it means you’ll be coming off a six day break with a post-Showdown flop. Maybe just accept the Monday night game as maximising your chances of a top four spot and accept the AFL is rigged.

The Almanackers
Led by Facebook and raffle ticket mogul, Rulebook, the Crows’ Almanac writers have had a ripper year. Complemented by resident South Australians Mickey Randall (quickest pen in the West) and Ben ‘beer whisperer’ Footner with development writer Aidan Hammond (strong bloodlines). Add to this the sparkling wordsmithery of our interstate correspondents Swish Schwerdt (Victoria), Mark Duffett (Tasmania) and John Warhurst (ACT – extremely strong bloodlines) the Crows have an Almanac squad capable of going deep into September in 2017.

So in summary, 2016 was an outstanding year for the Crows – a platform on which future success will be built. Don’t buy into the ‘we were not quite good enough because we are always not quite good enough’ narrative because it’s only true if you believe it… and the players believe it. After all, surely we’ll make a grand final before Richmond.

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About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"

Comments

  1. Good review,Dave we will never no how the season would have panned out if Danger had stayed I certainly think we would have been playing far deeper in September and likely October,a lot of promising youth we need top gun the need the need for speed.I fear the mega contract to Jenkins will come back to haunt us and yep I reckon us crows writers are looking good for the knackery gold medal
    ( time for some more redleg articles as well ) thanks,Dave ( see you tomorrow night )

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    The more churlish of us would point out that this is precisely the kind of attitude that has seen us out of the Grand Final since 1998.

    How good is our depth? It wasn’t tested this year – is it because of our “phys edders” or were we just lucky?

    Near enough in the extraordinary circumstances is the best we can hope for in an 18 team comp?

    Having said that, I agree with much of your piece, but Thompson has now entered list clogging territory for mine. And a change of skipper wouldn’t go astray either.

  3. Dave- Australian football seems to suffer more than other sports from a “unless you win the flag” you’ve failed mentality. In this way English football supporters have taught me much. We’d a good year that could’ve been great. I look forward to next year as with the exception of Thommo our list is youthful, and has learnt much.

    2016 was certainly one to be pinched. And if not us, then I’m happy it was the Dogs.

    Like Swish, I’m now not entirely convinced that Tex should be captain, but am happy for him to continue in 2017.

    Liked the Natasha Stott-Despoja line. Reckon we might need a Don Chipp or two in the midfield!

  4. Ben Footner says:

    The beer whisperer! Better watch myself, starting to get a reputation! When you spot $3 pregame schooners, the world deserves to know though.

    A great write up Dave and I agree with all you’ve said.

    It’s easy to box 2016 as ‘another failed year’, and in my more depressed moments following the semi final punting I definitely found my head in that space – but, I think this year is different.

    Lots of young talent with upside, and a coach who has got them already playing a game style good enough to get Adelaide into finals and likely top 4 positioning (not this year granted, but every other year would’ve been). Now he has another preseason with his troops to tune things further and add a few extra strings to the bow for the pressure games and the finals.

    Agree with your thoughts on Eddie Betts as well, he provides moments of pure joy and will single handedly cause me to pour another vast (and ever increasing) amount of money into my membership renewals for 2017.

  5. Ben Footner says:

    How do we feel about Bryce Gibbs potentially returning home gents? We’ve got a good record of getting the best out of ex-Carlton players.

    I personally think he would fit perfectly into our midfield. Exactly what we need.

  6. Dave Brown says:

    Thanks for the comments. In the end Dangerfield may have been more likely to play in a grand final if he’s stayed Rulebook, but who knows. Mardi won her local netball premiership so at least one of them got a premiership out of the move. And, yep, see you tomorrow night.

    Depth looks good Swish. Plenty of blokes that would have played AFL footy elsewhere and substantial seasons under the belt of developing players like Doedee, Wigg, O’Brien, Keath and Greenwood. In and unders are the concern. I put the injury run down to Brett Burton’s title “Managing Director of Super Dooperness”.

    As long as the Chipps are more accurate, Mickey, I’ll be happy.

    Was certainly not intended to be pejorative, Ben, a valuable talent indeed. Yep, as long as we pay a fair price for Gibbs it looks like a positive move. Might need to chop off the ponytail at the border to fit with the club image, though.

  7. Luke Reynolds says:

    Dave, you and the Crows faction of the Almanac are essential reading on this site. Pity we don’t have a comparable level of output from Port Adelaide supporters.
    The Crows were clearly the most aesthetically pleasing team to watch in 2016 for mine. Look forward to seeing them play in the same manner in 2017.

  8. Strong into September we are.

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