Adelaide will be full of confidence coming into the 2022 season after a strong off-season period at both the trade table and draft alike.
However, the question remains for Adelaide whether they have done enough on the training track to build towards a finals berth, or whether it will be another year of growing pains for the Crows.
15th (7-15), 82%
While it was a second straight bottom four finish for Adelaide in season 2021, there were plenty of memorable moments. Adelaide could not have started their season in a better way, launching an avalanche on the previous season’s Grand Finalists Geelong in the opening round. From there, The Crows would propel themselves to a 3-1 record at the completion of round 4, equalling their win tally from the previous year, as they continued to shock the AFL world with their rapid improvement.
However, Adelaide quickly came crashing back down to earth on the back of five losses in a row. This would include a 49-point loss to arch-rivals Port Adelaide, as well as a heartbreaking three-point loss against Hawthorn.
Many expected yet another blowout defeat when they faced the unbeaten Melbourne at the Adelaide Oval. However, when Taylor Walker put Adelaide ahead with less than a minute to go, Adelaide would hold on for an incredible victory.
The Crows would have another memorable victory in the most unlikely of circumstances when it took on St. Kilda in Cairns. Trailing by thirty points at half-time, A resurgent Crows outfit certainly came out with a point to prove in the second half as they clawed their way back before a remarkable goal from Riley Thilthorpe in the dying stages of the contest would give Adelaide another unbelievable and unlikely win.
The clashes with Melbourne and St. Kilda gave Adelaide fans the knowledge that their side would fight in every contest they found themselves in.
Ins: Jordan Dawson (Sydney Swans), Josh Rachele (National Draft/Murray Bushrangers), Jake Soligo (National Draft/Eastern Ranges), Zac Taylor (National Draft/Calder Cannons), Luke Nankervis (Pre-Season Draft/Sandringham Dragons).
Outs: Jake Kelly (Free Agent- Essendon), David Mackay (retired), Daniel Talia (delisted), Ronin O’Connor (delisted), Tom Lynch (delisted).
After essentially two seasons off, utility Wayne Milera has come back in excellent shape, impressing on the training track, as has mature-aged forward Shane McAdam. Adelaide has many positions up for grabs up forward, and if training standards are anything to go by, McAdam is right in the mix.
Young guns Harry Schoenberg and Riley Thilthorpe have also hit the gym hard, putting on extra muscle as they look to be two players to help navigate Adelaide out of the rebuild and back into finals contention in years to come.
Veterans Rory Sloane and Taylor Walker have also come back to training with a point to prove. Both have hit the track hard as they look to return to their best footy in 2022.
What to look forward to:
Run and Carry: Adelaide’s run and carry has been a strength for many years now, with a fast-paced free-flowing style of play being something that has given them great success across numerous seasons.
Adelaide already boasts several capable ball movers in the side, including an All-Australian squad of 40 member from 2021 in wingman Paul Seedsman. Seedsman enjoyed a career-best season in 2021, taking his game to new heights
With veteran Brodie Smith also playing a high half-back/wing role, Adelaide’s recruitment team saw room for improvement and pounced. With pace and skill at the top of their wishlist at the trade table, The Crows pulled off one of the biggest trades in the off-season swaying ex Sydney Swans wingman Jordan Dawson to join the West Lakes based club. With the returning Wayne Milera set to come back into the side, Adelaide’s run and carry is poised to be one of the best in the competition.
Seeing this quartet in action for Adelaide will be a nightmare for opposition coaches, and will be the focal point of how the Crows move the ball and kick winning scores in season 2022.
It’s a big year for:
After a brilliant previous two seasons at AFL level, in 2019 & 2020 respectively, which culminated in a Best & Fairest award for Adelaide in season 2020, ruckman Reilly O’Brien had a very disappointing 2021 season.
The big man was outstanding in the hit-out department across the previous two seasons, having originally replaced the injured Sam Jacobs. However, it was O’Brien’s work around the ground that set him apart from the rest and even had him in All-Australian discussions.
However, throughout the 2021 season, O’Brien’s numbers were at a career-low and he was beaten by his opponent in many contests. With Kieran Strachan proving his quality in the final two games of the year, in place of the injured O’Brien, the big man knows he needs to return to form.
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Biggest unanswered question:
Undoubtedly, the biggest question the Crows face is how they shape the forward line when former captain Taylor Walker re-joins the side.
Walker was in career-best form for Adelaide last season, particularly in the early stages, leading the Brownlow Medal with seven votes following the completion of round three. However, a racism scandal in August meant Walker would be suspended for six weeks. This means he is on the sidelines for the opening three rounds this season.
While it appears Adelaide has found their tall forwards of the future in Darcy Fogarty & Riley Thilthorpe, it is no doubt the Crows are a better side with Walker. However, whether they all fit in the same team and coach Matthew Nicks elects to play three tall forwards, remains to be seen.
Coach pressure index:
Although Matthew Nicks’ first two seasons in charge have yielded two bottom four finishes including one wooden spoon, the pressure is still very low on him as finals expectations are still low at Adelaide as they enter the third year of the rebuild.
While results haven’t been what Nicks would have liked throughout his first two seasons, his culture transformation for the club has been significant. The Crows had 28 players re-sign in 2021, something Nicks must be delighted with, as he also signed on with Adelaide for a further two years.
While it is doubtful that Adelaide play finals footy in 2022, Crows fans can expect another positive season of growth for their side. With Nicks in charge, supported by the rest of the coaching panel, Adelaide can take a massive step towards September.
Predicted Round 1 lineup:
10th – 14th
Adelaide fans will be optimistic coming into the 2022 season on the back of some excellent signs of improvement in 2021. With prized recruit Jordan Dawson coming into the side, and exciting youngster Wayne Milera returning from nearly two years out, there is plenty to smile about at West Lakes.
Adelaide will once again be hoping for major improvements to their forward line, and with the inclusion of draftee Josh Rachele crumbing at the feet of young forwards Darcy Fogarty and Riley Thilthorpe, opposition sides may find it difficult to shut down Adelaide’s potent forward line.
While there’s room for improvement to the Adelaide side, expect another season of growing pains before potentially pushing for September action in 2023. However, if the cards fall their way, we could see a return to finals footy for the club, their first appearance since making the Grand Final in 2017.
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