The Adelaide Crows belied their last-placed position on the table to claim a second successive victory on the back of ferocious pressure, slick clearance work and clever forward play. The Giants meanwhile are left to lick their wounds on a 10pm flight back to Queensland, rueing the season and maybe era that got away.

Read on for extended analysis of five notable stories within the game:    

 

INSIDE THE COACHES BOX

If I was previously bemused at the decision by Brayden Preuss to successfully seek a trade to Melbourne as Max Gawn’s understudy, then I’m downright perplexed by the Giants administrations hasty re-signing of Leon Cameron this week for a further two years.

Cameron had a distinguished apprenticeship, most notably as an assistant at Hawthorn in their three-peat era, however without spewing platitudes about luxury Italian motor vehicles, his tenure in the driver’s seat has been less than satisfactory. Of course, there will be the obvious retorts that premierships are hard to win, and that the Giants can tip their hat at a record that includes finals victories in each of the last four seasons. Regardless of Cameron’s suitability as the coach moving forward, the decision to fast track his appointment has done a great disservice to the members and players who deserve more savvy and due diligence to be conducted. What if Alastair Clarkson, for example, becomes available in a fortnight? Absolutely no one, and I mean nobody anywhere was clambering to attract Cameron’s signature, so what’s the rush? If Cameron can’t pull off a miracle in the next six weeks there’s every likelihood that  Cameron and Perryman; out of contract this year, and Josh Kelly (next season) start to consider their options elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Cameron was badly outpointed by the rookie coach at Adelaide Oval tonight as well. Mildly hamstrung by the loss of prime movers Brent Daniels, Zac Williams and Perryman, and then losing Langdon before the bounce put them on the back foot, but the amount of talent still running through the midfield to be beaten by ten in clearances, only a last stanza salvo of eight to four prevented it looking far worse.

Adelaide were more desperate and creative moving forward, and while the coach can’t be solely responsible for the lack of execution or two way running, his set up featuring a rotation of Himmelberg, Finlayson, Cameron and Riccardi rolling forward and back was a mess and confused the Giants midfield on the few occasions they got the ball, while also enabling the Crows forwards to run riot with match ups.

Matthew Nicks meanwhile, fresh off his first career victory had a terrific night, pushing terriers Ben Keays and Rory Laird into the middle to protect the prolific Crouch brothers, and also to extract the ball themselves. Laird excelled with ten clearances in the first three quarters and finished with six more than the next best on the ground, but it was the overlap run provided by the Crows back half Brodie Smith, Luke Brown, David Mackay and Andrew McPherson that most upset the Giants rhythm and proved the difference on the night.

 

WHERE ARE THE GIANTS LEADERS?

Stephen Coniglio, Jeremy Cameron, Toby Greene all in their ninth year of AFL football, along with Lachie Whitfield in his eighth are experienced and extremely well-remunerated players. However, without Callan Ward and Phil Davis for large stretches of season 2020 they have been incapable or refused to step up and deliver the guidance their teammates required. Cameron roamed far and wide attempting to get involved at least, Whitfield tried to provide some run off the back of the square, Greene bobbed up from time to time with creative moments, but the skipper again struggled, wearing that 7-year contract like a millstone, his disposal, line breaking and ability to hit the scoreboard completely deserting his game.

Heath Shaw was typically passionate despite having his colours lowered and even drifted forward for a nice goal set up by one of a handful of memorable highlights by Ian ‘Bobby’ Hill. Sam Jacobs battled hard to keep the player who forced him out of West Lakes under control, even snapping an outrageous goal in the last quarter from a goalmouth scramble, while Tim Taranto was one of the few Giants willing to go toe to toe with the Crows dominant midfield. While he fought to the last, his disposal let him down time and again. From that highly talented and experienced collection of players, none was able or willing to pick the team up on their back and drag them across the line in a game the club desperately needed to win.

 

POST TEX AND EDDIE THE FORWARD LINE LOOKS BRIGHT

Two of Adelaide’s most celebrated forwards will likely be gone by the end of the year, Eddie heading back to Carlton this season and former skipper Walker in the late twilight of a decorated career, notably achieving tonight the feat with his 440th goal of matching the record of matinee idol and high flyer extraordinaire Tony Modra.

However, crisis presents opportunity and the lowly position of the club this year has seemingly forced Nicks’ hand to bring together Elliot Himmelberg, Darcy Fogarty along with the fleet-footed Tyson Stengle and spring-heeled Shane McAdam.

Himmelberg, the younger brother of GWS’ Harry, stands at 198cm and weighs 96kg, he physically resembles the fearsome Silas the Monk from the Da Vinci Code, and tonight he monstered all of his opponents, grabbing a game-high four contested marks, kicking two goals and contributing to seven score involvements in a highly promising, perhaps break out performance.

His fellow tall Darcy Fogarty was integral in the Crows fast start, setting up McAdam for a shot on goal early, and using his brawn to match the physicality of the Giants in the clinches. While his stat sheet might look barren compared to his fellow forwards, his competitiveness and contesting rendered the Giants intercepting backmen ineffective and provided plenty of opportunities for Lachy Murphy and the like.

Former Tiger Tyson Stengle may have played his best AFL match tonight, his fourteen disposals a result of a career-high nine kicks and five marks. One mark late in the first quarter arose from clever positioning to work himself in front of his opponent to capitalise on Reilly O’Brien’s rushed chaos ball, the subsequent goal was perhaps only supplanted as his best highlight by a dashing run that ended with a precise pass to McAdam in the third.

Shane McAdam, a mature age priority draft selection acquired by the Crows as part of the Mitch McGovern trade to Carlton has been quietly building an impressive resume in his first season leading to this match where he starred from the outset, career high disposals (14), marks (7), tackles (5) and equal-high goals (2) the impressive return. He was able to hurt the Giants in multiple ways tonight and looks a long-term prospect to compliment a promising front half. His first goal came about from a holding the ball decision after three efforts to keep the ball deep in the Crows forward fifty, he next terrorised the defence by leaping over it with two huge screamers, getting down and dirty in the third it was his tackle that led to Lachie Ash turning it over for Walker’s record equalling goal, and later in the term he collected Coniglio’s poor clearing kick to set up Rory Sloane for a snapped goal.

 

A GIANT FORWARD HEADACHE

The current selection of the Giants forward line has a very unbalanced feel, tall marking options Cameron, Jeremy Finlayson, Himmelberg and Jake Riccardi competing with each other at times for just 26 inside 50 entries for the night. To combat the perceived oversupply of similar types in the same zone, Leon Cameron rotated them up the ground, and even into the backline at times. While this allowed individuals to gain some easy ball it did nothing to help provide targets for the mids moving forward and seemed to rob their best option of Cameron from deep in the forward 50 for long stretches.

Finlayson was quiet with only eight touches, but managed to hit the scoreboard twice in the second – extending his record of at least one gaol in each of his 13 games this year, the first from a well-judged mark protecting the drop and the second running on to a bit of Greene magic as the Giants attacked directly and with speed. He added a goal assist in the third getting on the end of a rushed kick from Aidan Corr and handing off to Jye Caldwell in the goalsquare.

Jeremy Cameron worked hard for his eleven touches, attempting at times to enforce his physicality on the contest, and kicking a goal from a contested mark on the goal line courtesy of a Sam Reid intercept and long kick. The 2019 Coleman Medallist just looks out of sorts though, and where he was able to kick two or more goals sixteen times last season, he has achieved that contribution just twice this season.

Himmelberg ended with 15 disposals and 364m gained, but mostly as he ran through defence as he was ineffectual up forward, and last rounds NAB rising star nominee Riccardi came crashing back to earth with just four touches and one mark. I can’t see the Giants able to carry any more than three of these players moving forward and even then that might not be enough of a shake up to turn things around.

 

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

By virtue of a horror first five months the Crows now have a free hit for the rest of the season, with the number one pick already sewn up, along with potentially the number two as well depending on player movement at the end of the season. Two wins on the bounce will have the hierarchy feeling a little better about the future and with games to come against Carlton and Richmond an opportunity to blood more youth. While there was a slight concern that Adelaide had no players named in the AFLPA top 40 under 22 squad there was no shortage of promising kids on display tonight, McPherson, Harry Shoenberg, Lachlan Sholl, McAdam, Stengle, Himmelberg, Chayce Jones and Darcy Fogarty with Fischer McAsey and Will Hamill on the sidelines suddenly the clouds don’t appear quite so dark.

The Giants, however, have some serious soul searching to do after that dismal performance and face a tough run to even make finals, let alone what confronts them should they make it there. Sitting precariously in eighth position and with matches against the equally disappointing Demons and a vastly improved St Kilda are anything but certainties. Redemption from their catastrophic Grand Final performance

 

And lastly five quick ones acknowledging the many tricks of Shane McAdam:

 

A Giant problem

One of the only positions in the Giants roster is not brimming with prime-of-their-football-life talent is the ruck. Shane Mumford was brought out of retirement and while still competitive, struggles against the better and more athletic ruckmen in the competition. They brought in Sam Jacobs this season, ousted from Adelaide by his younger doppelganger Reilly O’Brien but has struggled to recapture his best form. It is a real conundrum as to who Leon Cameron will trust should they make the finals, as for tonight while Jacobs was soundly beaten in the hit outs, he held his own around the ground with 14 touches, seven tackles, four marks, two clearances and an excellent goal. At this stage, I’d lean towards Big Sauce to have first crack.

 

Commentary corner

It would be remiss of me not to mention the commentary as it is has become such a feature of my reports, but fortunately this game was on Fox Footy and therefore mostly free of the boys club circle-jerking mandatory on Channel 7. One highlight, however, was Brenton Speed exclaiming that Aiden Corr while Irish was in fact no relative to the “sweet singing band of the same name”, he then proceeded to go right back to calling the play. Take note BT, you can add a little bit of colour and still do a professional primary job.

 

Ben Keays

The former Lion has taken his second chance at Adelaide Oval with both hands this season after 30 games in four years at the Lions. Already returning four matches with over 20 disposals far exceeding the two he’d previously returned, and more than doubling his career clearance numbers as Matthew Nicks has trusted him in the midfield. Tonight he collected 18 possessions, four tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s as he was one of the prime movers in the first half, and effectively limited the star-studded Giants midfield access to the ball through the middle of the ground.

 

Aerial Ping Pong

A disparaging name given to Aussie Rules by our antipodean fathers, tonight’s match showcased one of the very best elements of the game we love, high marking. Shane McAdam put forward two nominations for a spot in the Rebel Mark of the Week voting, the best of which was a big screamer on the half forward flank, putting the cherry on top of a best afield performance. Imposing Elliot Himmelberg also threw his considerable hat in the ring with a classical ride in the last quarter to bring down a skyscraper, but the best of the lot and perhaps the best of the year to date was taken by excitement machine Bobby Hill who in a purple patch in the third launched atop the competing ruckman and pulled off the one-grabber after his monster ride.

 

Stats, stats, stats

  • Adelaide dominated the statistics in this match, winning clearances 34-24 overall, and 9-3 out of the centre as Laird, Keays and the Crouch’s combined for 21 on the night.
  • While Sam Jacobs battled hard, he was easily outpointed by Riley O’Brien in hit outs 43-20 in an overall count of 48-23.
  • GWS were able to take more marks and lay more tackles on the night 73-52 and 76-69 respectively, but interesting were beaten for both marks and tackles inside forward 50 (8-3 marks and 10-8 tackles).

 

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