The road to redemption for reigning wooden spooners Adelaide began excellently today at West Lakes, with the club’s youth leading the way in what was a super competitive internal trial match.
Split into two teams that mirrored a probables vs possibles 22 match-up, the experience of the Blue side, led by captain Rory Sloane, Rory Laird, Taylor Walker, and Wayne Milera got over a Red side filled with youth and excitement.
The major story of the day was the emergence of Adelaide’s young midfield depth as the club looks to cover the departure of 2019 best and fairest winner Brad Crouch.
2020 draftee’s Luke Pedlar and Sam Berry were particularly eye-catching for the youthful Red team as they, along with recruit Jackson Hately did their absolute best to match it with Crows first choice midfield from last season.
Showing a willingness to throw themselves into the contest and burst away with pace from stoppage, the inexperienced trio absolutely put their hands up for early season selection and looked extremely comfortable with the increased tempo of AFL football.
Speaking to the media post-game, assistant coach Scott Burns spoke glowingly of the impact of this inexperienced midfield brigade.
“In the midfield, it was probably a younger group up against a more experienced midfield,” Burns said.
“The younger mids were exceptional today, they hit in pretty hard and didn’t give the older more experienced mids anything on their terms.”
The most intriguing addition to the club in the offseason, fans were given their first look at Riley Thilthorpe in a Crows jumper and the number two draft pick certainly did not disappoint with his elite athleticism and strong hands-on display for all to see.
Starting the match as the deepest forward for the Red team, Thilthorpe would battle hard in the first half before a radical coaching move saw the talented teenager moved to the wing, proving his versatility and capacity as an endurance athlete.
Burns said he is happy with Thilthorpe’s progression and ability to adapt to different positions.
“He’s recruited to be a key forward and that is where he will play,” He said.
“The things he did today he is very talented but he is still very much in his infancy, didn’t play that many games last year and he needs to learn a lot but he is going very well at this point in time.”
Across the wings, fans will be buoyed by the return of Wayne Milera who after missing all bar two games with a foot injury in 2020 looked fit and firing as he went about taking the game on and added an extra dimension to what has been previously dubbed a one-paced midfield brigade.
Supporting Milera, Lachlan Sholl continued his excellent pre-season with a consistent performance across the four quarters as he hit the scoreboard with two goals and provided a constant threat with his sublime foot skills.
Chayce Jones was also impressive in a new role across half-forward and on the wing, with the 2018 first-round draft pick looking more comfortable on the outside of the contest and confident in his ability to utilize his speed and skills.
Burns said he has been impressed with Jones’ development and is excited to see what he can accomplish on the wing this season.
“Chayce was on the wing and has been playing that role really well at training and in match simulations,” He said.
“In this internal today, I thought he just did a couple of things with power and speed, hit through the ball well and used it well,
“It is really up to Chayce, the opportunity is there but we’ve been really happy with the way he’s coming along this pre-season.”
Up forward, key forward Billy Frampton put his hand up for round one selection with a near best-on-ground performance.
Playing a half for both teams, a more nimble and powerful Frampton caused problems for the inexperienced defenders all day and constantly brought about scoring opportunities as he kicked three goals and set up a handful of others.
Following the match, Frampton told the media he was pleased with his performance.
“Personally I was pretty happy with how I went,” Frampton said.
“I just had a big focus on my competition and work rate around the ground and that’s what I’ve just been focusing on this preseason, I brought all of that to the front today and the rewards come from that.”
On a day seemingly dominated by youth, veteran forward Taylor Walker proved he still has plenty to offer in 2021. Using all his experience and strength to get the better of young Jordon Butts and have a heavy influence kicking three goals.
Small forwards James Rowe and Shane McAdam also proved themselves to be a dangerous duo inside 50, with the latter taking to the skies early in the first term in what was an early mark of the year contender.
Defensively, 21-year-old Andrew McPherson was the standout as he battled strongly against the X-Factor of Shane McAdam and led from the front across half-back with his decision making and intercept marking.
Burns says McPherson is definitely one to watch for the Crows this season as he continues to grow at AFL level.
“When I decided to come to Adelaide and get all the games from last year and have a look through them, his first eight or nine games just looked AFL,” He said.
“Today he was at ease, very good defending one on one but he’s got a very good ability to come off his opponent and impact or intercept the ball, so I thought he was one of the better defenders today.”
The Crows will continue their pre-season campaign with a trip to Alberton for a trial match against Port Adelaide next weekend before traveling to Perth for their lone AAMI Series fixture against Fremantle on Saturday, March 6th.
Blue: 16.10 (106) def Red: 9.10 (64)
Goals: Frampton, Walker 3; Sholl, Berry, Newchurch, Jones, Rowe 2; McHenry, Wright, Thilthorpe, Fogarty, Laird, McAdam, Murphy, Keays, O’Brien