15/04/2024

The Adelaide Crows celebrate a Showdown win in Round 3. (Picture: Adelaide Crows/Twitter; Design by Will Cuckson)

Moving up a place on the ladder and winning one more game was not all that the 2022 season had in store for the Adelaide Crows. The growth of some young players and a few more impressive performances by the youngest team in the competition showed the future is bright at West Lakes.

Finishing position: 14th position (Eight wins, 14 losses)

What worked?

Overall as was the case in the last few seasons, the Crows showed exciting signs through their youth this year. Midfielders Sam Berry and Jake Soligo were shining lights alongside the more senior heads in Rory Laird and Ben Keays.

Laird continued his midfield role with great success again for the Crows this season. Averaging 33 disposals, 15 contested possessions, 7.6 clearances and 391.3 metres gained, he was consistent and often prolific in his performances.

He also averaged 7.2 score involvements, which was crucial in getting the ball into their forward 50.

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Keays played well in the midfield this season, although it was it times his kicking that would let him down.

He played some great games early in the year to finish with an average of 26.6 disposals, 11.4 contested possessions, 5.5 clearances and 377.2 metres gained. He was also key in getting looks inside forward 50 with 5.5 score involvements a game.

Jordan Dawson fitted into the team after a quiet few performances to start the year. The much anticipated recruit truly arrived at the Crows after a match-winning effort in Round 3 with a Showdown Medal to show for it.

He was an asset throughout the year, however he was often needed to plug holes down back, on the wing and through the midfield, taking some time to lock down a position.

Overall he averaged 24.6 disposals, 6.5 intercept possessions, 2.2 intercept marks, over 600 metres gained and 6.8 rebound 50s.

Up forward Darcy Fogarty (33 goals) finally showed more consistency alongside his mentor Taylor Walker. Walker (47 goals) enjoyed another great year topping the goal kicking tally for the Crows.

They were joined by Joshua Rachele who showed glimpses of his class in his first season. Other Crows forwards, Riley Thilthorpe (eight goals) and Shane McAdam (23 goals) also impressed this season albeit with mixed seasons.

Jordon Butts played a solid role down back when at times he was bombarded with inside 50 entries to the advantage of his opposing forward. This was one of the aspects of the Crows line-up that was a weakness, because they often didn’t have another tall option against teams with two tall key forwards.

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What didn’t?

Overall things are still on the way up at West Lakes, with improvements in some key areas for coach Matthew Nicks to fix up.

Finishing in 14th position on the ladder isn’t truly indicative of the strength of the team when considering the few close losses to start the season. There are still ongoing improvements in player fitness, which should be attributed to another pre-season under Darren Burgess.

Having captain Rory Sloane out for the season from the win against Richmond was something that hampered the Crows.

Being down on form in the last few seasons, Sloane’s voice, leadership and effort were missing on field and this was visible at times. Having young Crows such as Dawson, Keays and Tom Doedee didn’t always fill the void on gameday.

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Another aspect of the season that didn’t go right for the Crows was their start. Losing by one point to the Dockers in Round 1 as well as the Bombers in Round 4 by four points made their overall record worse than it could have been.

One large problem that existed for most of the season was the scores kicked by tall forwards against the undersized defence. Having Nick Murray and Butts as the two key defenders for most of the season meant the defence got monstered by bigger bodies.

Hawthorn’s Mitchell Lewis, Port Adelaide’s Todd Marshall, St Kilda’s Max King and Eagles star Josh Kennedy all kicked multiple goals against the Crows.

Breakout stars

In their first seasons at the Crows, Soligo and Rachele showed why they were highly touted by the club on draft night.

Debuting in Round 1, Soligo had a very quiet start, having five disposals and one mark which he followed up with a two disposal second game against Collingwood. Subsequently he was dropped, but this clearly fuelled his desire to play more consistent football.

He returned to the side in the loss to the Brisbane Lions in Round 9 where he already looked more comfortable at the level. He finished the season with some decent midfield minutes, going on to average 14.6 disposals, 6.6 contested possessions, 1.8 clearances and 3.3 score involvements.

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Earning a Rising Star Nomination in Round 4 after a three goal performance in the loss against Essendon, Rachele looked like a player that the Crows had hoped he’d be after drafting him in the off-season. Another highlight for him was an impressive five goals on debut in Round 1.

In his second season, Berry was a star in the midfield with tackles a feature of his work. Prior to the last three matches, Berry was leading the league in tackles, laying 9.3 a game. He averaged 17.6 disposals, 9.8 contested possessions and 4.6 clearances this season.

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More AFL Season Reviews

AFL 2022 Season Review: Essendon

AFL 2022 Season Review: GWS Giants

AFL 2022 Season Review: West Coast Eagles

Highest point:

The highest point of the season has to be the Showdown win in Round 3, with the Dawson goal to win the game.

Pre-season, the Crows were touted as a chance to finish with the wooden spoon and their state rivals in the Power were still flag fancies.

The Crows put on an epic performance in front of their home fans on the first Friday Night Showdown ever, culminating with the famous goal after the siren.

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Behind by two points in the last few seconds, a high tackle to Lachlan Murphy won a free kick which was given to the best kicking option in the team. Winning the Showdown Medal for his performance, Dawson launched himself into Showdown and club history with their first win of the season.

Lowest point:

There were a few low points during the season for the Crows, but one main one that stands out is the patch of form in the middle of the season which resulted in five losses in a row.

After beating the Bulldogs away from home in an unexpected win, the Crows had a disappointing performance (a 59 point loss) against the Giants at home in Round 7.

This was followed by a 48-point loss to Carlton, 36-point loss to Brisbane and a last quarter blitz by the Saints to lose the game by 21 points in Round 10. The final blow was inevitable when the Crows went down to GMHBA Stadium to lose another game to the Cats by 42 points.

Arguably the two most disappointing performances were the losses to the Giants and Port Adelaide in the second Showdown. The Giants were also near the bottom of the ladder, they were out of form and the game was played at home, but the midfield was run ragged by the superior bigger bodies of GWS.

In the second Showdown in Round 23, the Crows looked to go again to really show they have what it takes as a team to beat stronger opposition. It wasn’t to be this time, with Port absolutely dominating from the midfield to deliver Robbie Gray a farewell win.

Where to next?

With players looking reasonably set for next season, it seems like there will not be too much change at the club. They will have to continue to look for another key defender option without Billy Frampton, who looks to be bound for Collingwood next season.

There will also be much excitement about the potential surrounding the arrival of Izak Rankine at West Lakes. Lining up with Walker, Thilthorpe, Fogarty, McAdam and Rachele, the Crows supporters will be buoyed by the growth this group has shown in the forwardline with more growth to come.

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1 thought on “AFL 2022 Season Review: Adelaide Crows

  1. As a Crows member I was fairly happy in the season. The kids are starting to develop and I can see where Nick’s is going. Glimpses of what is to come excites me. Another pre season and Izak Rankine will help. I know it won’t happen overnight rebuilds take time. In another couple of years will be challenge just not there yet.

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