There were quite a few players primed for huge 2020 seasons. Or at least they were hoping for one. A summer spent running and refining their game was railroaded by a virus that threatened so much more than just an AFL season.
However, with the green light for the competition to restart, we’re starting to get the feeling that this damn thing just might be salvageable. Hell, if you’re asking me, I think a 17-game season is more than enough in-season time to crown a premier… though I am not a fan of shortening games for quicker recovery, particularly as it now seems as though cramming games in at a quicker rate won’t be necessary. Seems the AFL are wanting to keep that… slipping it by as part of this ‘New Normal’ people are using as though we won’t be able to get on with our lives again, eventually.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the movement to shift the Grand Final to a night game. What’s that old saying about never letting a crisis go to waste? I wonder whether this underhanded chicanery will come back to bit the AFL of its backside at some point this season…
Anyway, we like to be more of a positive site when it comes to footy. No wild conspiracy theories or scuttlebutt about players’ personal lives here (as long as readership doesn’t completely tank). We prefer to focus on the game itself, and what players can and will bring to the table.
This week, I am looking at a player from each club with a point to prove. The reasons may vary, but make no mistake, the resumption of the 2020 season is just what the doctor ordered for these blokes.
Whether they’ve been written off, suffered a humbling defeat, are coming back from injury, or are having one last crack at things before hanging the boots up, these are the fellas with a point to prove for the remainder of this season.
We’re starting with the Crows… because Adelaide starts with an ‘A’.
With Taylor Walker stepping down as captain, the reins are well and truly in the hands of Rory Sloane. After opting to stay in Adelaide and ignore the pull of his home state, Sloane now finds himself as the main voice in this Crows team – a team that is expected to slide.
What a feather in his cap it would be if he was able to halt the much-prophesized slide and turn things around.
There is a bit of the old-fashioned leader in Sloane; he is the kind of player that’ll put his body on the line irrespective of what’s coming the other way, and I don’t think you’ll find anyone who thinks he does not go hard at the footy. Is he the leader the Crows need at this time? Can he bail hard enough to, not only stop his team from sinking but steer them back on course?
Sloane is no Tex Walker. The bravado is not as evident, but if Tex had the sizzle, Sloane has the steak. I expect him to offer more of what he did in the opening round of the season. 15 of his 17 touches were in the contest, and he led the game in pressure acts.
If he is doing those things, how can his team help but follow?
In the wake of the Jake Lever departure, Crows fans were delighted to see a young bloke take the bit between the teeth and leap right into the vacant role.
So good was Tom Doedee in 2018 that at one point, I was putting together rolling All-Australian teams, and I was throwing his name out there as a genuine possibility. From memory, this was about Round Seven, or so. A young star of the game, he was quickly making Crows fans forget about the star potential of Lever, and instead, had them focusing on the big jobs he was doing week-in and week-out.
His form waned somewhat toward the end of the season, but overall, Doedee was a classy addition to the half back line. Then he did his knee in 2019.
I’m not a Crows fan, but my heart absolutely sunk when I saw Doedee go down, injured. I’m not sure how many of you are like me, but on any given team, I have players I am drawn to and take an interest in. Darcy Fogarty is another on the Crows team, and I’ll get to him soon. But in 2018-19, it was Tom Doedee I wanted to see excel, and I reckon he was on the right path to do so.
We now move into the middle of 2020 – can you believe that? Here we are in mid-May and Doedee should have had enough time to work his knee back into good shape. That’s a dumb statement – having had numerous knee operations, it’s more the areas around the knee you need to work back into shape, and if anything, this lay off would have given him the chance to get himself cherry ripe for the rest of the season. Too many players come back a little underdone from knee injuries. This break has given Doedee the extra time he may well have needed. If not needed, then desired.
Amid the doom and gloom of many supporters (of all teams, not just Adelaide. I can’t stand the “call the season off” people… ugh!) there is plenty to look forward to. And when I look at the Adelaide Crows, seeing Tom Doedee out there plying his trade again will be one of those for me.
Yes, well… he has a bit to make up for, doesn’t he?
Coming across from Richmond, there was a bit of expectation around Stengle, but in his first season at the club, he managed just two games. Admittedly, he was best-suited to the role reserved for Eddie Betts last season, so you can give him a slight pass, but two games? Just two?
2020 was meant to be the breakout season for him.
He started relatively well in Round One – nothing to write home about – but we’ll now have to wait until Round Six to see him attempt to make amends for his indiscretions.
Stengle will make a decent-to-good small forward duo with the bloke I’ve got up next, but he needs to keep his head on straight and make the most of his opportunity at his second club. He has good hands, great evasion and needs to start making good on the potential he’s shown. Now, more so than ever.
With Eddie Betts wearing navy blue, there is a real chance for Lachie Murphy to take on more responsibility in the Adelaide forward half, however in the pre-season, he really looked lost at sea.
I spent the off-season talking up his potential to be a break-out player for the Crows, and he responded with an outing against Melbourne that was toilet-water bad. Three disposals and two tackles was his return that day. If I was disappointed, I can only imagine how Crows fans must have felt.
Jumping forward to the first round, he was serviceable without being great, with his forward pressure starting to come to the fore. The thing for me is, the Crows don’t need players to be serviceable – they need a couple of players to show large amounts of organic improvement, and Murphy was one I was hoping would fit into that category.
However, it is May, and the season is still young… amazingly. If we get to see Murphy continue to tackle like he did in the first game of the season, we may see his pressure become the catalyst for goals for others… and then I’ll feel happier about talking him up for five bloody months!
Well, this is it, Bryce.
In 2019, he looked a like a lost little lamb at times. Turning the ball over as often as he’d hit a target by foot (I’m making that stat up… it just felt that way) and looking as though he’d just started playing the game, Bryce Gibbs was a shadow of the player he as at Carlton. He was even a shadow of the player he was in his debut season with Adelaide. There were way too many deer-in-the-headlights moments about him in 2019, and nowhere near enough times when the seasoned professional was evident.
I think it’s safe to say that Don Pyke lost faith in him, right? And the resultant loss of confidence from Gibbs caused a significant drop off in form?
But can he regain it? That’s the question.
We have a really small sample size to go on, but he didn’t look like he had found much confidence in Round One. He looked hesitant and… truthfully, timid. I doubt there is any player who’d like to see themselves described that way, but that’s how he looked.
This bloke came to the Crows as the icing on the midfield cake after their 2017 season, but injuries to Brad Crouch and others forced him to be a lot more in the first half of 2018. In the first 12 games of his first Crows season, he laid 7+ tackles six times. He had 7+ clearances six times as well.
Since then he has had 7+ tackles four times, and 7+ clearances ZERO times. Where has that player gone? And can this version of Bryce Gibbs find him quickly enough to make an impact in 2020?
In order to improve, I find that it is rarely the big trade, or draft pick that makes the largest difference in a team – it is a few players jumping out of the box and becoming stars of the game. It’s a lot of pressure, but this is now the expectation for Darcy Fogarty.
Is it too much pressure?
Look, it might be. His sample size is small, having managed just four games in 2019, but what he showed was a physical presence and the willingness to play good, hard footy from deep in the forward half. He puts his body on the line without a second thought, and in an age where self-preservation is a little too prevalent in the league for my liking, The Fog throws caution to the wind.
I don’t think there are many players like Fogarty around, and this is part of his appeal. Give him the choice of running to receive a handball or laying a big shepherd, I don’t think you have to ponder too long to decide what he would rather do.
He is a brute, a battering ram, and a fuel-injected suic… no, that was the Toecutter from Mad Max 2 – I always get them confused.
Whilst many have taken great pleasure in whacking the Adelaide Crows over the past few weeks, my focus is on what is possible on the field, and substantial improvement from Fogarty could see plenty of footy lovers start tuning into Adelaide games to see what he is up to. I know I will.
I called this bloke the key to the Crows a while back and got shouted down, but when he is up and running, he adds so much to the Adelaide team that they are an infinitely better team.
He may now be nearing the dreaded age of 30 (oh, to be 30 again…) but Lynch’s ability to lead up to the wings and half-back, only to double back and run hard toward forward 50 is the kind of attribute not too many half-forwards possess.
His game against the Swans in Round One was interesting. Two goals, 14 touches and 100% efficiency are the kind of numbers you need from him, but you’d like to see those disposal totals up around 19-20 consistently. While I am at it… Champion Data, how can the bloke have four turnovers and run at 100% efficiency? –Your system is SHIT!
Lynch is a workhorse, and he has a couple of injury-riddled seasons to put behind him. In doing so, he’d quickly remind a few people of what Adelaide has been missing since that blistering 2017 campaign.
Here’s a fun drinking game. Every time Matt Crouch handballs or kicks sideways or backwards, take a drink. If it’s a game where he gets 30 touches, you’ll be drunk off your arse.
Crouch is a ball winner, but I would love to see him trust his delivery a little more. We saw a little more of it in the first game of the season, but his usual disposal was way down (18 for the game).
The challenge for Crouch is to start being more damaging with his touches. He is an extractor at heart, but there is so much more to him, and last season, the number of times I watched him take possession, look forward to a genuine one-on-one contest and opt to stop, hold the ball up and go backwards or sideways was infuriating.
I don’t want to bag this bloke out at all – he is a fantastic ball-winner, and if he was being instructed to continually go sideways and backwards, I apologise, but when you’ve got Walker, Lynch, and back then, Jenkins in your forward 50 with just as much chance of winning the contest as their opponents… give them the chance and kick it to them!
Hopefully, Matthew Nicks gives him the green light to play more direct footy once we resume.
Ever seen that episode of The Simpsons – the classic ‘Homer at Bat’?
Well, there’s one scene that reminds me of Taylor Walker in the AFL world.
New York’s Steve Sax is pulled over by a couple of Springfield’s finest, Eddie and Lou as Mr Burns’ baseball ringers all encounter an issue of some sort before the championship game.
Officer Eddie: (reading Sax’s licence) Well, well. Steve Sax from New York City…
Officer Lou: I heard some guy got killed in New York City and they never solved the case. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Steve?
Steve Sax: But there are hundreds of unsolved murders in New York City.
Officer Lou: You don’t know when to keep your mouth shut, do you, Saxy Boy?
Now, if you remove Steve Sax and insert Taylor Walker, and remove both Eddie and Lou and replace them with any two members of the AFL media, you start to get an idea of how much crap Tex puts up with. In the eyes of many, he cannot do much right. I’m surprised they haven’t tried framing him for a few unsolved murders!
What I want from 2020 is for Tex to have one shot at redemption. Whether it’s a big mark in the dying seconds of a close game, a game-changing hip and shoulder, or a quarter where he puts the Crows on his shoulders and carries them doesn’t matter to me. I just want people who speak before they think to swallow their words when Walker shows them exactly why he was captain of this side, and exactly why his leadership carried the Crows to the precipice of greatness just a few short years back.
I don’t want him winning the Coleman… I don’t want to be silly about it. I just want Walker with the opportunity to make a big statement, and unlike Round One, where he had the chance… I want him to make good on it, and close a few mouths in the process.
So, that’ll do. Have any of your own to add? Who has a point to prove at Adelaide this season? And what is it?
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