20/04/2024
Josh Rachele. Picture: Adelaide Crows Media

Josh Rachele. Picture: Adelaide Crows Media

Falling agonisingly short of finals last season, rising star Josh Rachele is pivotal to an Adelaide line-up determined to silence all non-believers.

With a gruelling preseason finally coming to an end, Josh Rachele has big expectations for both himself and his team heading into a season where they are expected to take a serious next step.

“I’ve been pretty happy with my own pre season so far,” he said.

“It was really good to get through a whole preseason, train a bit more with the midfields and having a bit more of a connection with Izak (Rankine) and Luke Pedlar.”

A midfield group that consists of All-Australian Jordan Dawson and consistent bulls such as Rory Laird and Matt Crouch is set to be assisted by an array of next-gen stars.

“We’ve got so many options, you’ve got Jake Soligo, Sam Berry who played outstanding on the weekend so spots are going to be tight these first few games,” Rachele said.

“It’s a very fluid mid-forward line, wings, we’ve got, people that can roll through there, I think it’s very exciting.

“I think it’s great that we’ve got so many options that can roll through and provide that bit of a spark and it’s going to be dangerous for teams, especially defending guys like us.”

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Missing numerous sessions with a hip issue last preseason, Rachele is set to fire fresh off his biggest training load ever.

“I had a great off season with a lot of the boys, as you can see we’ve got a lot of guys pushing for spots and the team’s looking really good at the moment,” he said.

“I can definitely say that my repeat speed was something I always had but being able to do that continuously throughout a game was something that I worked to improve on, especially going through the midfield this year.

“I’ve definitely noticed being fitter and stronger and I think that’s just going to keep progressing after every single preseason.

Playing 21 games and booting 23 goals in 2023, Rachele naturally improved upon his rookie year where he kicked 17 goals in his first thirteen matches.

“My goal this year is just to be a consistent footballer, I think I’ve shown that I can play at the level, but throughout the last couple of seasons I’ve been in and out at the backend, so being able to be consistent and play the 22, 23 games at a high level,” he said.

“For me this year is just about the little things so being on top of all my recovery and diet, that was something that probably wasn’t at the 100 per cent level that I could’ve done the last couple of years, so being able to be really critical of myself in the sense.”

For a younger guy still finding his feet, Rachele praised the high-standards in regards to recovery and preparation shown by some of the locker room leaders.

“You see the likes of Lairdy (Rory Laird) and Daws (Jordan Dawson) and these consistent guys and being able to pick their brain has been massive for a lot of us younger guys development,” Rachele said.

“I think it’s something that we all want to try to incorporate into our game to be consistent AFL players so just bridging the game between the good and the bad games is the end goal for me this year.”

Rachele’s firecracker tendencies got the best of him when he struck GWS defender Jack Buckley in Round 18 of last year, earning him a two-week suspension.

Working alongside Adelaide’s performance psychologist, Rosanna Stanimirovic, Rachele has dedicated himself to controlling his emotions when opponents attempt to rile him up.

“It’s a fine line, especially being a forward there’s always going to be guys that get under your skin because their role is to be able to do that,” he said.

“For me it’s about being able to think team first and not be in my own head in those situations and think what’s best for the team and how we can win.

‘Those situations in the past I’ve probably thought a bit more internally which has shown my emotions on the field.”

For third-year players, particularly small forwards or half backers, taking their game to the next level requires increased time at centre bounce. Evidently, one of Adelaide’s biggest question marks heading into 2024 is the mid-forward split that Rachele will play.

“Personally, I’m hoping for a 70/30, 60/40 gap,” he said.

“It’s going to be hard I think there’s going to be so many guys at different centre bounces and rolling forward.

“I can’t really put a number on it because it’s going to change throughout games, there’s going to be times where Izak or Luke Pedlar is on fire so we’ll probably leave them in the midfield a bit longer.”

Averaging 15.3 disposals last season, Rachele ranked ‘above average’ for small forwards. However, his tendency to be quiet in patches is one of the primary criticisms against him.

“Sometimes high half-forward can be a hard role and being able to lose your opponent and getting back to goal can really help your confidence,” he said.

“Even if you are just in there for a tackle or just a little hand on it because there is quarters where you’re not touching the ball so it’s really good for the confidence.”

Following an incident versus West Coast last week, key forward Riley Thilthorpe underwent successful knee surgery with a recovery period set to be as long as three months.

“It’s really disappointing, Riley was probably one of our standouts from preseason,” Rachele said.

“We’ve got so many guys pushing for spots, we’ve got Lachie Gollant, Chris Burgess, or we could still go for a smaller forward line if we like.

“We don’t want to be guys that show moments here and there, I want to be that consistent AFL players.

“Izak and myself we love to being that bit of X-Factor, that bit of fun to games but for us the end goal is to play finals and win a premiership.

“I still think there will definitely be some fun, I still love having fun with the crowd so there will be a few little cheeky things coming out.”

Rachele left the Crows main training session early in frustration after receiving a knee to the quad from Matt Crouch. The knock was in a similar spot to a corky which saw him a training a few weeks back.

All signs suggest that a limited training session on Friday will be the worst of the consequences with Rachele assuring, “I’ll definitely be fine for round one.”

The Crows will meet with the Gold Coast Suns on Saturday, March 16 at Heritage Bank Stadium in a game sure to set the tone for one of the most pivotal Crows seasons in recent history.

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