15/04/2024

The Adelaide Crows after losing their preliminary final to the Brisbane Lions (Picture: AFC/Twitter, Design by Will Cuckson)

After aiming for two premierships in 2022, the Crows followed their Season Six flag with a Preliminary Final exit at the hands of the Brisbane Lions. With the two losses in the regular season coming against teams that then eliminated them in finals, they will be looking to the youth of their side to elevate themselves next season.

Finishing position: 3rd (Eight wins, two losses)

For the Crows, the year was one of growth and consolidation despite the end result. They backed up a premiership with another finals run, which for the first time in the team’s short history ended with a preliminary finals loss.

Throughout the year as a result of the loss of experience in expansion signings, the youth in the Crows’ list was given sufficient gametime with young Crows having breakout seasons in all areas of the ground.

What worked

The youth is really coming to the fore for the Adelaide Crows with the team still playing the same scintillating and attacking football that they always have. This season they also started to build a particularly young defensive unit which ushered in Kiera Mueller, Amber Ward and Jasmine Simmons.

In this space it was Chelsea Biddell who went from strength to strength, alongside Sarah Allan, with Biddell earning her first All-Australian selection in her second full season in defence. Madison Newman had her career-best season after missing out on selection for the season six grand final, this culminated in her earning a spot in the 22 under 22 team.

In the midfield it was Teah Charlton and Abbie Ballard making an impact in the third midfield position alongside stalwarts Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff, while Cailtin Gould and Zoe Prowse continue to rise in their ruck/forward roles. Playing off a wing or through the forwardline Niamh Kelly looked like a fantastic pick-up in the off-season switching from the Eagles however she had an injury-interrupted season.

Lessening the load put on the shoulders of two-time leading goalkicker Ashleigh Woodland were the efforts of Danielle Ponter and Chelsea Randall who had injury-interrupted years. Randall’s move into the forwardline was a masterstroke by head coach Matthew Clarke who recognised her marking ability and accuracy in front of goal as an asset in a front half that was lacking options.

What didn’t

What didn’t work this season was that the Crows lacked speed, a third midfield option to go with Hatchard and Marinoff and an even spread of forward contributors.

On the whole it was two teams that bettered the Crows during the season and the finals with the Crows going winless against the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne Demons.

The main weapon that they used against a team that had finals experience was their leg-speed and top-tier midfield rotation that generally batted deep. With the Lions it was Emily Bates, Ally Anderson and Isabel Dawes and Melbourne’s midfield is stacked with a-grade options with Olivia Purcell, Eliza West, Karen Paxman and Tyla Hanks.

Charlton began to emerge as a third midfielder in her third season however the Crows lack anymore options that are ready-made in the a-grade mould. Keeley Kustermann might be the option they are looking for but with only one game in her debut season she might take a few seasons to get up to speed in the league.

What also continues to be an issue for Adelaide is their forwardline, the spread of goals continues to be an issue with Randall and Woodland kicking the lionshare of the majors for the club in season seven. Ballard could be an option going forward, with more time at the level she could be the small pressure forward they lack at times.

Another option could be Prowse who looks like a likely tall forward/defender option instead of a ruck in the AFLW. With exceptional marking and the ability to be clean beneath her knees, she could play alongside Woodland and Ponter but also provide ruck relief to Gould.

Breakout stars:

One player that truly broke-out this season was defender Madison Newman. Missing out on selection in the Season Six Grand Final, she worked to ensure that the heartache of missing out on a premiership would be worth it. She spoke to The Inner Sanctum about this during the season.

Managing only 18 games in her four seasons prior to Season Seven, Newman has become the consistent player that many thought she could be. Her performances against GWS (21 disposals, seven marks and three tackles) and Collingwood (17 disposals, two marks) were the two career-best outings which have given her more confidence at the level.

Another player that has had a break-out couple of seasons this year is Biddell, the former forward turned defender capped off a stellar year with her first All-Australian selection. Averaging just five disposals in 2021, she has now doubled that for the past few seasons with her high football IQ and marking utilised in the backline.

Playing as a general alongside stalwart Sarah Allan, she has found her role in the team and played football that has won games for Adelaide.

More AFLW Season Reviews

AFLW 2022 Season Seven Review – Geelong Cats

AFLW Season Seven Review: Western Bulldogs

AFLW Season Seven Review: Gold Coast Suns

Highest point:

There were two main highlights in the Crows’ season in season seven, first of all their history-making 96 point demolition of the GWS Giants at Unley Oval. In a game where the Giants were truly out-classed in every facet, the Crows scored the highest winning margin while keeping their opposition to the equal-lowest score in the AFLW.

Another highlight was the wet-weather Week Two final win that saw the Crows progress to the Preliminary Final. Looking to get into the Grand Final the hard way, the Crows put on a solid performance against a strong Magpies outfit in a game of wild weather and even lightning.

Despite a thirty minute delay to the match starting time as well as a 43-minute break at quarter-time due to lightning in the area, the Crows defied the elements to keep their two goal buffer. The first two goals were the difference with the wet-weather suiting Adelaide’s youngsters in defence in Biddell, Allan and Newman as well as Gould and Charlton in the midfield.

Lowest point:

The lowest points in the season were the two finals losses at the hands of Melbourne in Week One of the finals and Brisbane in the Preliminary Final. Coming off a solid win over the Saints in Round 10 of the regular season, the Crows were in great form winning eight out of ten games.

Coming up against what is now an AFLW rival, the Crows were keen to atone for a poor performance in Round One which saw them open season seven with a loss. Losing by 18 points in Round One, it was a slightly larger margin of 21 points that saw them host Collingwood in Week Two of finals instead of going through to a Preliminary Final.

A quick start by the Crows saw them lead at quarter-time by three goals, however the Demons equalised in the second quarter while the Crows were held scoreless. It was a three-goal final quarter by Melbourne that sealed the deal with the Crows being truly held in attack.

The other lowlight of Adelaide’s season was the loss to Brisbane that ended their hope of winning two premierships in one calendar year. Being simply out-run and out-classed by the Lions, the Crows will consolidate their young talent with eyes to becoming premiership fancies in a few seasons’ time.

Where to next?

From here the Crows list will seemingly be very similar next season with no obvious changes apart from fringe/depth players. Ailish Considine will not return to the club after not being offered a contract for next season with the two-time premiership player after being injured this season, it is likely that she will not able to break into the best side.

As detailed by Phil Harper, when speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, the Crows will look to keep their young squad together while bringing potentially bringing in some experienced or hardened bodies from the SANFLW competition.

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