As we hit the bye rounds in the AFL season, The Inner Sanctum will be conducting our mid-season reviews of all 18 clubs and assessing the first half of the season and what fortunes may lie ahead.
Up next, Adelaide
The season has been a rollercoaster for the Crows so far with close wins, big losses, and even a famous Showdown win with a goal after the siren. Most people thought that Matthew Nicks’ men were going to feature towards the latter part of the ladder but with improvement coming from the youth each week, the club looks to be rebuilding and heading in the right direction.
As the most inexperienced and youngest overall list in the league, there are a few things that have worked well for the Crows this season so far. One of the main aspects is their youth showing signs of coming through the team and standing up.
The senior players in the team that have performed well and carried the team over the last few seasons include Brodie Smith, Rory Laird, Rory Sloane, Taylor Walker, and Ben Keays have had some assistance throughout the team this season.
Jackson Hately, Jake Soligo, Sam Berry and Ned McHenry are getting more midfield time, Chayce Jones and Will Hamill are bolstering the defence and Jimmy Rowe and Shane McAdam are gaining more confidence and providing more output in the forward line.
Some aspects that Adelaide needs to improve after the bye include its inability to score and its inaccuracy. Going back quite a few seasons, their attack used to be the weapon of the Adelaide Crows. This year the Crows have had trouble scoring without Taylor Walker, Shane McAdam and Josh Rachele pitching in.
Walker has kicked 21 and McAdam and Rachele have kicked 15 goals each this season, all from eight or ten games respectively. Adelaide needs more contribution from its midfield and other forwards in this area.
Another area for improvement is their accuracy in front of goal. The Crows have kicked 129 goals and 125 behinds, they rank 15th for goal accuracy, converting 45.6 per cent of their shots on goal.
Needless to say this will never win games of footy as it is unable to put scoreboard pressure on its opponents. It has already cost Adelaide two games, in particular, losses against St Kilda and Geelong.
The defensive stocks are another concern for the Crows with only Luke Brown and Jordon Butts playing genuine lockdown defensive roles. Brown has been out of form this season, this was evident with Brisbane and St Kilda’s small forwards outplaying Adelaide’s defence.
Jordon Butts has missed a few games this season and it has thrown the backline out with another fullback not waiting in the wings. Billy Frampton, Josh Worrell, and James Borlace all could take this spot but the Crows seem to think they are not ready, while Nick Murray plays usually undersized against his opponent.
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There have been a few big improvers this year with Jackson Hately being one that has played well since his addition to the midfield. His best game was the loss to the Brisbane Lions in Round 9, where he had 27 disposals (10 contested), eight score involvements, four clearances, and two tackles.
Another big improver is Shane McAdam who has been adding pressure inside the Crows’ forward 50 as well as taking his high flying marks and kicking nearly two goals per game this season.
An honourable mention is Jake Soligo, who was dropped after a quiet debut in Round 1 but has come back into the team in recent weeks displaying four solid games. His best performance was in the win against St Kilda, where he had 19 disposals, three tackles and a goal.
Who needs to lift?
Two players that have to lift are Reilly O’Brien and Matt Crouch. O’Brien and Crouch were dropped following poor team performances against GWS and Carlton, given the stature within the team and the leadership they provide they need to lift to assist the rebuilding process.
The pair was re-introduced into the team after hot performances in the SANFL but need to continue to build for the rest of the season.
Other players that need to lift are Elliot Himmelberg and Billy Frampton, who need to solidify a place within the 22 or risk not getting another contract at the end of the season.
Best and Fairest Contenders
There are a few contenders for the honours for the Malcolm Blight Medal later on in the season with Ben Keays and Rory Laird expected to poll well, joined by new recruit Jordan Dawson.
In a season that has been tough for the Crows on the scoreboard, the midfield has been a feature. Keays has been a feature within the Crows’ midfield for the last season or so and keeps going from strength to strength.
The 25-year-old is averaging 29.8 disposals, 12.8 contested possessions, six clearances, 6.3 score involvements, and 428.6 metres gained per game. He has been a workhorse for the team and even captained two games this season in the absence of Rory Sloane.
Joining him on the podium will be former defender Rory Laird. Laird has also been an accumulator, averaging 32 disposals, 14 contested possessions, 7.6 clearances, over 300 metres gained, and 7.4 score involvements per game. He has been imperative in getting the ball into the forward line this season.
Announcing himself to the Crows faithful in the Showdown in Round 3, Jordan Dawson has been an instant favourite this season. Providing classy skills and pace, Dawson is averaging 583 metres gained, 24 disposals, 5.4 contested possessions, and 4.8 score involvements per game.
One player to mention who won’t feature that heavily but has been a great asset so far is Josh Rachele. Nominated for the Rising Star Award this season, he has kicked 15 goals in his first season.
Playing 10 games in a row at the level straightaway is a fair effort and he even contributed five goals in his debut game. Rachele will be a favourite for years to come and has already shown his goal-sense and smarts which will see him succeed at the level.
Expectations for the second half of the year
When considering the Crows had won seven games by the end of 2021, placed at four wins mid-season, they will be hoping to at least match that tally. Furthermore, the club would also want to be taking more scalps to show the supporters that there will be success after the growth they’ve seen in the last few seasons.
The games against Melbourne and Geelong last year gave the team confidence and showed the fans a glimpse of what the squad can do. Winning a game like that this season would be a big boost considering Adelaide has suffered losses in games it was expected to win.
The expectations are about the same as they were in the pre-season, with glimpses of the future and growth overall but not a big rise from last season.
The Adelaide Crows will hope the tough run of games of the last month is behind them after the bye and will do their best to notch up a few more wins throughout the year. If they can do this they will finish between 12th and 16th place on the ladder at the end of the season.
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