Adelaide 2012 Season PreviewPosted: March 27, 2012
INS: Luke Brown (GWS), Cam Ellis-Yolmen (national draft), Mitchell Grigg (national draft), Josh Jenkins (Essendon), Lewis Johnston (Sydney Swans), Nick Joyce (national draft), Sam Kerridge (national draft), Tom Lynch (St Kilda).
OUTS: Tony Armstrong (Sydney Swans), James Craig (delisted), Myke Cook (delisted), Phil Davis (GWS), Jack Gunston (Hawthorn), Ivan Maric (Richmond), Brad Moran (retired), James Sellar (Melbourne), Scott Stevens (retired), Will Young (delisted).
YEAR IN REVIEW: Finishing 11th in 2010 was bad enough, but something went seriously wrong for the Crows and coach Neil Craig last year. Rumours that players had lost faith in Craig’s game plan were circling months before Craig eventually stood down in the wake of a 103-point drubbing at the hands of St Kilda in round 18. At that stage, the Crows had won just four games, were the worst stoppage team in the league and had kicked more than 10 goals just twice for the season. Caretaker Mark Bickley released the shackles thereafter and Adelaide went on to win three of their last six games. Scott Thompson was the Crows best player in 2011, while youngster Rory Sloane and ex-Carlton ruckman Sam Jacobs emerged as consistent contributors in a year lacking many.
GAME BREAKER: Come on down, Taylor Walker. There was something not quite right with the Walker-Craig relationship. The exceptional yet erratic talent of Walker just didn’t fit in Craig’s plans. Walker still managed 32 goals in 13 matches and has the ability to kick bags. There’s work to be done, no doubt, but this could be the breakout year we’ve all been waiting for.
RISING STAR: St Kilda had to shed a few at the close of the Ross Lyon era but Tom Lynch could come back to haunt the Saints. The 21-year-old is a key-position player who could slot in at either end for the Crows. Lynch played only six matches since being taken at No.13 in the 2008 national draft, but he enjoyed an eye-catching season in defence at VFL level with Sandringham last year where he averaged 26 disposals and eight marks per game. He’s ready.
KEY ARRIVAL: You can have all the talent in the AFL world on your list but forget about winning matches if they refuse to do the hard work. Brenton Sanderson has landed at the Crows with one goal in mind – get his team to play ruthless, physical, aggressive footy. So far, so good. The Crows didn’t like it tough in 2011, and Sanderson knew that. He’d coached against them and found the weaknesses. It’s Sanderson’s arrival which will shape the Crows this season. Training was brutal over summer and its exactly what this group needed.
COACH FACTOR: Uncompromising and ruthless are buzz words. Putting size on his midfielders will also be a focus for the former Geelong assistant coach. Sanderson was part of the Crows’ original squad in 1991, managed six games for Adelaide, then carved out a 199-game career with Geelong. When his playing days wound up, Sanderson spent time at Port Adelaide before rejoining the Cats as an assistant coach for four seasons, including three flags.
STATS THAT MATTER: Scott Thompson cleared 136 stoppages in 2011, a staggering 47 more than any of his teammates. He also laid more tackles and had 155 more disposals than anyone else in his unwilling team. Help required, enquire within. On another topic, the Crows have the easiest draw in 2012, according to Champion Data’s rankings system.
THE VERDICT: 10th. For the past two seasons the Crows have been a low-scoring team. Neil Craig lost his job because his team didn’t play bold, attacking football which subsequently gives most a winning result. They weren’t prepared to kick to contests up forward and kept possession by kicking sideways and backwards. It produced slow, low-scoring, boring football that never got them anywhere. Expect Sanderson to get the Crows moving the ball quickly, in a more direct fashion. It will take a year or two to form them into a top four threat but if the NAB Cup premiership is any indication, the Crows will excite many in 2012.
B: Johncock Rutten Doughty
HB: Otten Talia Reilly
C: Dangerfield Van Berlo Douglas
HF: Knights Walker Sloane
F: Tambling Tippett McKernan
Foll: Jacobs Thompson Vince
I/C: MacKay, Jaensch, Symes