The appointment of Jordan Dawson as captain of the Adelaide Football Club raised quite a few eyebrows, with some believing others at the club were more qualified for the role.
It wasn’t the standard journey to AFL captaincy, jumping from one team to another, only to be anointed captain within a year – it does not occur often. Chris Judd is the one that jumps to mind recently, but he was made captain before even playing a game with the Blues. He also had a history of leadership, with ‘premiership captain’s already a feature of his CV.
In just his first season with the Crows, Dawson established himself as one of the most important pieces of their ongoing puzzle. His raking kicks, hard run, and intercept work made him an integral part of the Adelaide structure, as he shifted between wing and half-back… with the occasional foray forward to kick match winning goals against cross town rivals.
Ah yes… that shot at goal, after the siren to sink Port Adelaide in yet another nail biting Showdown. It was a moment that won’t soon be forgotten. Off the boot, the kick appeared wide, but almost as though the hand of fate reached down to correct the trajectory, the footy swung back and drifted through for a goal. As expected, Dawson was swarmed by a murder of Crows (I still love that they’re called that. Almost as cool as a a group of Tigers being called an “ambush” – HB… fountain of useless information).
It may not have been the start of the Dawson journey to leasing this team, but it certainly did not hurt the cause.
What is strange, however, is that just 12 months prior, Dawson was a Sydney Swan, jumping to a then-career high of 22.3 disposals per game. Whilst he was a fine player in his final season in the Harbour City, he was not considered leadership material. At that stage, the Swans’ leadership group consisted of Dane Rampe, Callum Mills, Luke Parker, Lance Franklin, Josh Kennedy, Harry Cunninghsm, and Tom Papley.
A solid bunch, with Mills being touted as a future leader for years before.
Hiwever, did they miss the boat with Dawson, or was he at a point in his career at Sydney where leading was not a vested interest?
The fact that Dawson was not immediately inserted into Adelaide’s leadership group in 2022 adds the the mystique of his ascension this season. Still, it is completely fair to assume that the Crows needed to see what he was made of before bestowing any position on him. With names like Rory Laird, Tom Doedee, and Brodie Smith running around, for a player like Dawson to come in and have such an impact speaks to his work ethic and ability to adapt and own his role, irrespective of where Matthew Nicks played him. He became their Mr-Fix-It, doing whatever was required to make the team operate more cohesively. If they needed to shore up the defence, Dawson played deep. If they needed better rebound, he’d be up around defensive 50. And if they needed run through the middle,and someone to bomb a goal from outside 50, guess who was asked to provide it.
But he was also doing that at Sydney. What changed?
It may not be so much of what changd – Dawson was not playing too differently – as it was the Swans’ perception of him going forward. Dawson may have wanted to be a leader at Sydney, but had not recommitted to the club – why would they elevate him without a guarantee he’d be around following the season
There was also the theory that Dawson was replaceable at Sydney, with Justin McInerney, Ollie Florent, and Nick Blakey all looking more than capable of switching between wing and half back. And then there was the recruitment of Paddy McCartin to strengthen the intercept marking, as well. Some would argue that Sydney got better without Dawson due to this – making the Grand Final backs it up. However, to assert a player like Dawson was completely surplus to needs would be incredibly parochial (if you’re a Swans supporter) or dumb (if you’re not… or even if you are). Players like him don’t grow on trees.
When Jordan Dawson left Sydney, I am not sure anyone saw his rise in Adelaide being so rapid. As the face of the club, his star has already risen higher than it could have in Sydney, so his move is justified. At 25, he is about to hit the peak of his powers and whilst the Crows are ecstatic to have a player and person of such quality in their midst, you have to wonder whether there are some at Sydney who now watch what he is doing elsewhere and think “what if…?”
Alas, what is done is done. The Swans replaced Dawson’s role with a couple of players and the Crows grabbed themselves an untapped vein of leadership – proof that you should never be defined by the station afforded you in life.
The Swans will be around the mark in 2023 again. Their list is solid, with boys becoming men right before our eyes (did you see Errol Gulden have 45 touches and kick three in the practice game?). However, the preseason form of the Crows was particularly impressive, with many predicting their powerful forward set up to elevate them to the point they contend for finals.
Me… I’m.a fan of a great story. Dawson leading his team on the charge to finals against the Swans… it’d be right up there with things I’d love to see in 2023.
As for who I’d like to win… well, is it soft if me to barrack for a kick after the siren in the hands of one Jordan Dawson?
Let the hand of fate decide again. Maybe it corrects the flight again… maybe it doesn’t.
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