R5 – Adelaide v Carlton – The Big Questions

Everything pointed to the Adelaide Crows losing this game.

They were on the road – a place where they fell apart regularly in 2023.

They were 0-4 and playing an undefeated team.

And they were 16 points down in the last quarter, with the Blues boasting an impressive record in close finishes.

When Izak Ranking missed a set shot in the last quarter, it all seemed lost for Adelaide. They had thrown everything at Carlton, who many believe will contend for the flag. They had seen their defence, belted early by the contested marking prowess of Harry McKay, pull together, only to give up ground ball goals in the final stanza.

And they had seen the Blues celebrate as though they’d won when Charlie Curnow roved his own contest, turned, and snapped a goal to give the Blues the 16-point bugger.

It had the makings of an honourable loss, and truth be told, given the quality of the opposition, falling short in this game would not have been a disgrace.

But that wasn’t enough for the Crows. That was not good enough.

And 2023 was for honourable losses on the road.

Adelaide needed to make a stand in 2024. They needed to hold their ground, say “enough is enough” and pull out a big win.

Under the roof at Marvel Stadium, in front of a hostile crowd, and with their backs to the wall, the Crows chose this moment to kick start their 2024 season.

And it was bloody brilliant!

So much to get through in this one. So many heroes, so many dramas, and so many moments to recap.

Let’s get into The Mongrel’s Big Questions.

Usually, at this point, I’d put the paywall up, but sometimes, I get a bit excited about a game of footy and want to share that excitement with as many people as possible. This is one of those times, so I am leaving it open for all. If you like this type of coverage, please consider becoming a member of the site – this is what I love doing, and every review I write has this much effort contained. Cheers – HB.



Coming into this game, the Adelaide Crows were anything but proud of their work. Looking like a shadow of the high-scoring team of 2023, they had been handed their backsides across the first rounds of the season, with losses to Gold Coast, Geelong, Freo, and Melbourne.

This, the team most thought would take the next step, had apparently stepped in the wrong direction.

Several steps backwards, depending on who you talk to.

And yet, with everything seemingly against them in the last quarter, this group found a way to win.

Some will point out moments where things should have gone Carlton’s way – the Harry McKay and Matt Owies cock up inside fifty late in the game could have put things on ice for the Blues, but the fact remains they squandered their chance to win it, and the Crows seized theirs.

It was a brilliant last quarter, as the Blues applied the heat and almost had the Crows cooked, before a furious retaliation saw Adelaide rally to cut the lead, cut it again, and finally, hit the front with a couple of minutes to go.

Make no mistake, this was a character-building victory. It was the type of win that can launch a season – yes, even from 1-4. To see the way the players reacted, the way they worked for each other, and the way they put their bodies on the line when it was their turn to go – it was inspiring. How could you not love the effort of this group?

The Blues were fantastic, as well, which only adds to my admiration for the way the Crows went about it. Carlton won the clearances, they won the inside 50s, they won the intercepts and the contested marks. All indicators point to a Carlton win, and yet Adelaide still found a way.

And this may come across as pandering, but I am going to write it, anyway – good teams find a way.

People had written this Crows outfit off. Dropping the first four games of the season, many believed a bottom four finish was on the cards, but they dug deep and started the process to resurrect their 2024.

Last year, they dropped a couple of heartbreakers on the road. In truth, it was the reason they missed finals – not a poor umpiring decision in one game, but a series of losses away from home. Had the Crows won the games they were supposed to on the road, they would have been in September action. They didn’t. And they paid for it.

To see them rise to this occasion was brilliant, and it might just be the game that turns things around for them.

The pride of South Australia is far from diminished. It was alive and well at Marvel Stadium today.



I love a good unsung hero, especially if I can sing his praises before anyone else.

I’ll just warm up the vocal chords, here…. Lalalala… Luke Nankervis’ selfless acts in this game were the Adelaide Crows in a microcosm.

In recent weeks, and the last couple of seasons, it seems to be cool to talk down players who put their bodies on the line. These youngsters continually tell me how players shouldn’t have “dumb courage” and should not put themselves in danger, regardless of the situation.

“Oh, yeah… well, players should protect themselves above all else.”

“Well, it’s not courageous… it’s dumb.”

I hear those comments and wonder how many of these people have ever been in a position where their team relies on them to go for the footy, regardless of what is coming the other way. At many clubs, it is the standard – the rule you do not break – and when you can make a contest, you do so. You don’t stop and think “Well, maybe I’ll just allow the opposition to mark this one and stay safe…”

Because thinking that way will see your teammates lose trust in you!

So, when Harry McKay was leading hard at the footy in the first quarter on the wing, and Luke Nankervis – in game number seven – backed into his way, knowing what was going to happen, I almost stood up in the middle of my lounge room and applauded.

Let’s take a deeper look at that moment.

Nankervis is 20 years old. As such, he would have been given a pass if he’d gone with one hand and tried to disrupt the marking attempt of McKay, who at the point, looked as though he was channelling Wayne Carey.

But he didn’t.

He threw himself at the contest. McKay crashed into him, the ball spilled, and the Crows not only picked up the footy and went forward, but they also got it to Tex Walker, who slotted a goal.

It is actions like this, and the one of Josh Worrell in the second quarter, where players give their bodies up for the good of the team, that build team culture. With blokes like these out there, you know exactly what you’re going to get from your teammate on each and every occasion. I don’t even barrack for Adelaide, but I was damn proud of the way Nankervis committed to the contest in this moment, and for the remainder of the game.

Prior to this game, had you asked me who Luke Nankervis was, I would have given some half-arsed answer about being a young wingman for the Crows. I have taken notice of him in recent weeks as part of our coverage of the Robert Flower WIngman of the Year Award, but far out… ask me about him now and I know a hell of a lot more.

He won me over with his efforts in this one, and I reckon there are a host of teammates who will be walking up to him and letting him know just how much his efforts meant to the side in this game. It was like the making of a young footballer.

Go well, Luke – fantastic effort!



Almost. He almost showed us everything he was capable of, but there is a part of me that believes that he can take his game to another level, yet.

Rankine as a Sun was enigmatic. It has always been the belief that he needed to add consistency to his game to become the star we all know he can be. And in this one, he stepped up when the Crows needed him to.

His six touches in the final quarter were all potent (aside from that missed set shot, I suppose). He pushed hard forward, displayed clean hands, and looked like the player most likely to break the game open. As he ran back with the flight, judged the footy better, marked and goaled to bring the Crows within a straight kick, it was as though we were witnessing the maturation of a player that has often been more sizzle than steak.

But there was plenty of meat on the bone in this one.

Any time a player can play predominantly forward and still rack up over 20 disposals, you know they’re working hard. Rankine had seven centre bounce attendances, but he looked the most dangerous when he was able to find space at half-forward. With three goals to go with his 23 disposals, Rankine gave the Carlton defence fits, and if I were to choose the most influential player in the game, it would likely be him.

I have a confession.

I am not a betting man, and most of you would know my stance on sports-betting in the media (which is why this page remains gambling-ad free), but I placed fifty bucks on Rankine to win the Brownlow this season at the start of the year. It was a long shot, as reflected by the odds, but when he plays games like this one, I start counting that payout in my head.

I know he won’t win it, but a top ten finish is not beyond the realms of possibility. He catches the eye, does Mr Rankine, and he would have caught plenty of eyes with the way he played in this one.

Three votes.



I wrote about this in the preseason.

If you were given a chance to pick your ideal back six, I am willing to wager that none of the Adelaide defensive unit would be chosen…

… by anyone!

When Jordan Dawson made the move from half-back into the guts during the 2023 season, the Crows started to rely on players that were, until that point of time, pretty much role-players in the grand scheme of things. However, there is a beauty to a team where the sum of the defensive unit is greater than the value of the parts.

And that is the Adelaide defence.

Jordan Butts was up against it early in the game, with Harry McKay looking ominous. McKay had three contested grabs in the first quarter, as he out-muscled Butts (better than out-butting someone named Muscles. I suppose) in marking contests to snag two goals. However, as the game progressed, it was the was the work of Butts, who played the game out with a hamstring strain simply because the Crows needed him to fight through it, and Mitch Hinge, and Josh Worrell, and Max Michalanney, that repelled a potent Carlton attack over and over again.

In the back half of 2023, I was quite taken with Hinge’s game, and saw big things on the horizon for him. However, his start to 2024 did not set the world on fire.

It’s burning after this game.

He had 26 disposals, ten intercepts, and five rebound fifty disposals as his class started to come to the fore.

Worrell had six intercepts, six R50s, and seven one-percenters in the type of game that saw him do a little bit of everything.

Mark Keane battled his heart out against Charlie Curnow, despite the two-time Coleman Medallist slotting four majors.

With Nick Murray (who I still call ‘Sam’ sometimes) still a while away, this Adelaide back six is holding things together with pieces of string and clag, but my god, my kids have made some incredible art with those materials, and the Crows defence created something special, themselves in this game.

Keep the big names. Gimme a tough, rugged, hard-nosed no-name defence any day of the week.



I kept waiting for him to get tired.

After a half, he had 20 touches.

After three quarters, it was up to 26.

And with eight more in the last, he finished up with 34 disposals and 13 tackles for the game. Not a bad return, huh?

It is almost embarrassing, in the best possible sense, that Carlton can lose a player the calibre of Adam Cerra, and then just bring in the bloke who was the best player of the 2023 finals series to take his place. I mean, some teams struggle to have one excellent inside/outside mid, and here are Carlton chopping and changing them like they’re Mrs Mongrel at a restaurant when she decides she likes what’s on my plate better.

Walsh was every bit the star in this game, working his magic with the powerhouse Patrick Cripps (he is the best at winning a ball in dispute in the game right now, hands down) to pump the ball inside fifty over and over again.

For someone with an injury as debilitating as a back injury can be, to see Walsh lead the team in disposals, tackles, inside fifties, and clearances, it gives an indication just how brilliant he is. Sure, he wasted a possessions early on as he kicked the rust off, but as he settled into the game, it was like he didn’t miss a beat.

I read somewhere that his return might mess up Carlton’s midfield cohesion – what a load of bullshit. Players like Walsh don’t mess up anything – they make things better. And it is scary to think he’ll be even better for the run.



I don’t know just yet, but it is abundantly clear that they have found something they need.

Allowed off the leash and into the midfield, Soligo is like an attack dog in there. In terms of attitude, I mean – I swear I didn’t see him bite anyone!

The way he goes at the contest – at pace, and with clean hands – is exactly what the Crows have needed to give their one-speed midfield unit a bit more nippiness around the stoppage. He picked up six clearances of his own, but it was the way he consistently presented as the first-release player to ease the pressure on teammates, that impressed me most.

When in that position, you are either going to get a quick disposal away, or you’re a sitting duck as the pack converges on you.

Either seemed fine with Soligo, who is as hard as a cat’s head and welcomes the contact.

He is a point of difference for the Crows, and to see Matthew Nicks understand what was lacking and identify Soligo as the man to provide it restores a little faith in his coaching for me, after some baffling coaching efforts earlier in the year.

Jake Soligo in the guts = a big tick from me.



I loved it, because there were stories within the story, here.

I am sure we’ve all read about Tex’s start to the season, right? He’s been a bit down, isn’t providing the scoreboard impact he did to start last season, and was being closed down a little too easily.

I admit, I was drawn to what he was doing at one point, when the issues were far greater than whether Tex was hitting the scoreboard. At his age, he has to be given the chances to do that, and the Crows were just not providing him anywhere near enough service.

Lo and behold, the midfield starts to get up and running, and suddenly, Walker is on the end of short passes, timing his leads to perfection again, and playing a vital role in just about every positive forward thrust the Crows had through the first half.

With Darcy Fogarty almost a non-factor until the last few minutes, to see Walker initiating contact to get Jacob Weitering off balance, and then move into space to receive the footy was a sight for sore eyes. Weitering is a consummate defender. He is all steak and no sizzle, and has that dead look in his eyes as though he is a zombie, intent only on eating brains preventing forwards from kicking goals.

That Walker was able to snag four goals, AND take ten grabs with Weitering charged with keeping him quiet, is testament to how well Walker was able to push off and find the right places to lead to.

It’s not often that Weitering has his colours lowered – there was a point last season (I think) where people were using some outrageous stat about one-on-one wins to prove how well Weitering was travelling. So to see Walker, at 33 years of age, getting the better of him on the whole, would have done a lot to make Crows fans believe again.

Now, if they can just get Fog doing… anything…



Ah yes, nice segue, HB…

If you’ve read my stuff for a while, you’d know that I am a Darcy Fogarty fan. Hell, I had a mate come back from Adelaide, and he was chatting with Crows fans and one of them, when learning my mate knew me, started rattling off times when I had talked Fogarty up.

I didn’t know I was so transparent!

Anyway, when I start to lose a bit of faith in a player I have been so on-board with, you know it is time to get serious.

Apart from that one bullet inboard in the last quarter to give Brayden Cook a shot at goal, Fogarty was a huge disappointment. He was comprehensively beaten by Brodie Kemp, returning stats of six disposals, two marks, and bugger all scoreboard impact.

Whilst two of his six disposals were direct goal assists, Fog’s job is to hit the scoreboard and he is just not doing it. I had these grand plans for Adelaide in 2024 that involved Fog and Riley Thilthorpe taking the heat off Taylor Walker and allowing him to play a more supporting role.

Well, Thilthorpe’s injury and Fogarty’s inability to impact games, has meant that the heat has been well and truly on Walker again. In this one, he was able to handle it, but far out, is there a time when Fogarty is going to take over as the number one forward, or are we starting to think that maybe we (and I say “We” and in “I”) have perhaps overvalued him?

I want Fog to achieve. I thought 2024 was going to be the year he really started doing that. But with under a goal per game to his name this season, it might be almost time to start facing the fact he is not the answer.

Unless he is?

Oh, damn it… I still want to believe!




Saad has developed his game over the last few years to become a legitimate defender.

I should elaborate.

He has always been a great runner. He has loved to tuck the footy under his wing and take off like his arse was on fire, but he was often found out on turnover, and seemed to run really fast forward, and not quite as quickly back the other way.

At Carlton, his defensive instincts have improved, and he has become a more-rounded player.

So when a player that gives you that run, as well as the ability to starve a small forward, goes off the ground and doesn’t come back on, you start to struggle to move the footy quickly.

The Blues started using Jordan Boyd a little more, and his foot skills did give them something, and they used Zach Williams, as well. His foot skills, and habit of running directly into trouble, also gave them something. It was called trouble.

It is no surprise that with Saad off the ground, Izak Rankine became more prominent. And despite players like Nic Newman offering a reliable presence in defensive fifty, none of the Blues remaining had that pace that worries teams, and were therefore not considered as much of a threat as Saad would have been.

With him out there, opposition teams need to be mindful to stop the run and carry. Without him, it gave the Crows’ smaller forwards a chance to freelance a little more, and it worked for them.



How would you like to get that type of return from him every week?

I reckon as soon as Keays sees the footy in the hands of Taylor Walker, he knows he is a chance to get on the end of the kick. Walker looks for him – as though they’re waxing, at times, and chooses him over other options.

I am not sure whether Walker rewards how hard Keays works, or he just gets to the right spots at the right time, but for future reference – Carlton, if you have someone playing on Ben Keays, make sure you don’t allow him goal side, okay?

Keays finished with three goals and 20 touches, backing up from the 16 disposals and three goals he kicked last year against the Blues.

Hell, if they don’t do something, next time, he might have 24 disposals and three goals! There’s a pattern, y’know?



How can he not, after coming on as the sub and owning the footy in the last quarter? And as if nine disposals in the high-pressure of the final quarter wasn’t enough, he gets on the end of the rapid-fire handball chain inside fifty to kick the go-ahead goal.

A couple of years back, one of our writers sat next to Sam’s mum at a game and she told him that we’d better say nice things about him when we write game reviews.

Well, Mrs Berry, Sam has not had the easiest run in the past 12 months. He has played on a team that has a midfield with so many players that run at the same pace as Sam that he slipped won the pecking order a little. But in this game…. Yes, in this game, he rose to the top of the order with one of the finest one-quarter bursts of his career.

Renowned as a tackler, to see him win the footy with ease and slot a goal under pressure… I am sure Mrs Berry leapt to her feet in celebration of her son’s achievements.

I may have done the same.

A great quarter, and a great way to cap the game.

Nice things… nice things.



Far out… four thousand words in…

Marc Pittonet did a great job on Reilly O’Brien. Matching him for strength, Pitt was able to nullify the dominance ROB Had last season.

Josh Rachele looked the most dangerous he has in a while in this one. he is a confidence player, in my mind, and this run should do him the world of good.

Matt Crouch is likely in a bit of toruble for his bump to the head of Jack Carrol. You know the league hates that action.



That, I have.

Make no mistake, this was a great win for the Crows. A truly great win against an excellent opposition.

I wrote about pride earlier on. They should be proud of the way they fought back in this game. They should be proud of the heart they displayed. Hell, as an outsider, I was almost proud of them.

This is the way you restart the motor. This is the way you bring a team that was down on itself in close and build. And this is the way you go out and win tough games on the road.

It was the missing piece to the pie for the Crows in 2023. How fitting that it is now the thing that starts it all up in 2024.

The pride of South Australia?

Yes… yes, indeed. At least for tonight.


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