Matthew Nicks will be looking to lead the Crows to greener pastures in 2021, Photo: afc.com.au

As we get into AFL season 2021, The Inner Sanctum takes a look into the Adelaide Crows and what they'll provide this year.

It has been a tumultuous past three seasons for the Adelaide Crows, with a host of on and off field problems seeing them slump from minor premiers to wooden spooners. 

This has prompted the club to enter its first ever genuine rebuild, with a dramatic turnover in personnel both on and off the field signifying a new direction for the club. 

Now sporting the league’s youngest list, there is a renewed sense of hope at West Lakes as a new generation of Crows look set to bring the club out of despair and into a brighter future. 

Last year: 

18th. 3 wins. 14 losses. 64.4%

Coming into the year with a new coach, new game plan and new list management strategy, it is safe to say things did not go to plan with a host of on and off field distractions seeing the club claim its first wooden spoon. 

Sporting an inability to move the ball with any real fluency and trouble opposition defences with their forward structures, it seemed that confusion reigned over the first half of the season as rookie coach Matthew Nicks struggled to communicate his new game plan to the players. 

Sitting on the bottom of the ladder with a record of 0-13 and talk of a potential winless season increasing by the week, the Crows had hit rock bottom. 

With no real expectations, they would return from their bye with a renewed sense of hope and confidence and reel off three consecutive wins. 

This late season surge would be centred around the improved play of the Crows youth, with the likes of Lachlan Sholl, Elliot Himmelberg, Harry Schoenberg and Shane McAdam beginning to have a serious impact at AFL level. 

So although the 2020 season will be largely remembered as a disaster, the final month showed that their is light at the end of the tunnel and that fans should be excited by the potential growth of this team in 2021. 

Track watch:

Looking to continue the momentum from a strong finish to last season, many players have returned to pre season in top shape as the club looks to climb it way back up the ladder. 

However when it comes to standouts, rising star nominee Lachlan Sholl has separated himself from the pack with his strong work ethic seeing him put on some much needed muscle in the gym and further improve his aerobic capacity. 

Lachlan Sholl has come back to training in top shape, Photo: afc.com.au

Claiming the club’s time trial title after finishing eight in the event last season proves just how much Sholl has improved as an athlete over the past twelve months, as he looks to have a greater impact on games at AFL level this season. 

Lauded by Nicks at the club’s recent season launch event for his dedication and enthusiasm towards training, he is a star on the rise and set for a crucial role on the wing 2021. 

New recruit Jackson Hately has also impressed since arriving at the club, with his professionalism and elite skill quickly garnering excitement among Crows fans. 

Poised to step into the midfield vacancy left by 2019 best and fairest Brad Crouch, expect Hately to thrive on the increased opportunity and have an instant impact in the red, yellow and blue

What to look forward to:

With the Crows well and truly entrenched in a rebuild, fans will be looking forward to seeing the growth of the club’s young players throughout the season. 

Evident through their excellent final month to last year, this team has an exciting young core of players who are just beginning to find their feet and contribute at the top level. 

Whether it is the electrifying X-Factor of Shane McAdam, class of Lachlan Sholl, hunger for the contest of Harry Schoenberg or reliability of Andrew McPherson, there is some serious potential among this young group of Crows players as they continue to grow together. 

On top of this existing group, Adelaide were one of the major players in the 2020 draft with talented prospects Riley Thilthorpe, Luke Pedlar, Brayden Cook, James Rowe, James Borlase and Tariek Newchurch set to significantly bolster this exciting nucleus of young players. 

Going into the season with the youngest list in the competition with an average of 23.67, Crows fans will be excited to finally see the club fully invest in its youth and organically build a talented team for the future. 

It’s a big year for:

Selected with pick nine in what has been since been dubbed the 2018 super draft, it has been a disappointing first two seasons in the AFL for Chayce Jones as he simply has not been able to have a consistent impact at the highest level. 

A gifted endurance athlete that is known for his speed around stoppage, Jones came into last season with high expectation with a strong pre season having him primed for increased responsibility through the middle of the ground. 

However, the Tasmanian just could not get himself going as despite looking dangerous with ball in hand he found himself unable to get involved around stoppage and impact games on a consistent basis. 

Lauded as one of the centre pieces of this rebuild, 2021 is an enormous for Jones as he simply must find a way to overcome his demons and become that midfield X-Factor the Crows are crying out for. 

Biggest unanswered question:

After giving fans a prelude of his leadership ability for a two game span last season, the biggest question for the Crows heading into the season is whether it’s time for talented defender Tom Doedee to take over the reigns as captain of the club. 

Tom Doedee showed great promise as stand in skipper last season, Photo: afc.com.au

Despite injury preventing him to just 21 games across his four year career, it is clear Doedee is the future figurehead of the club with his tenacity on the field and charisma off of it creating the perfect leader moving forward. 

However, being so inexperienced at AFL level there is merit in allowing the 23-year-old defender to continue to develop as apart of the leadership and allow club legend Rory Sloane to assume the role as skipper for a third season as he enters the back end of his career. 

Perhaps the biggest decision the Crows will face during this rebuild period, it is a call they simply must get right, with moulding the leadership of Doedee critical to the club’s hope of a successful future. 

Coach pressure index:


Although Nicks began his tenure as a senior coach with a disastrous 13 straight losses and a first wooden spoon in Adelaide’s history, there is still little pressure on his position with the club in the depths of a rebuild. 

Tasked with changing the club’s culture and building a foundation for sustained success, it was clear from the beginning that it was going to be a long process and that fans will need to be patient as he goes about implementing his game plan in this young group. 

Bolstered by the arrival of experienced assistants Scott Burns and James Rahilly, expect a more confident and clear Nicks this season as he hopes to continue down the path of nurturing this exciting young list. 


Jackson Hately (GWS Giants), Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide), Luke Pedlar (Glenelg), Brayden Cook (South Adelaide), Sam Berry (Gippsland Power), James Rowe (Woodville-West Torrens), James Borlase (Sturt), Tariek Newchurch (North Adelaide) 


Brad Crouch (St Kilda), Rory Atkins (Gold Coast), Kyle Hartigan (Hawthorn), Bryce Gibbs (Retired) Myles Poholke (Delisted), Jordan Gallucci (Delisted), Ben Crocker (Delisted), Riley Knight (Delisted), Patrick Wilson (Delisted), Ayce Taylor (Delisted)

Predicted Rd 1 lineup:

FB: Luke Brown – Daniel Talia – Tom Doedee 

HB: Andrew McPherson – Fischer McAsey – Will Hamill

C: Lachlan Sholl – Matt Crouch – Brodie Smith

HF: Tom Lynch – Taylor Walker – Shane McAdam 

FF: James Rowe – Darcy Fogarty – Riley Thilthorpe  

FOLL: Reilly O’Brien – Rory Laird – Rory Sloane 

I/C: Jackson Hately – Wayne Milera – Harry Schoenberg – Chayce Jones  

Ladder range:


Despite their strong finish to 2020 and the sense of optimism surrounding the club heading into the season, there is still some pain on the short term horizon for Crows fans as this young group continues to develop. 

Sporting the league’s youngest list, the main focus will surround greater consistency in performance as they hope to compete for longer periods of time against the league’s elite. 

This is still however very much a rebuilding team, with hopes of a finals push still at least two years away.

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