Who’s To Blame This Time?

The 2023 Adelaide Crows had a gripe. It was a legitimate one, as an errant umpiring decision cost them a chance to win a game that could have propelled them into the finals series. And as we know, anything can happen in September.

However, the decision didn’t go their way and the Crows found themselves finishing in tenth position. A season lost. A season wasted. And even though the goal umpire’s error was an easy thing to blame, there were plenty of other reasons the Crows missed the cut. One of the main ones was their road record. Their form away from home was abysmal, as they continually failed to win anywhere other than their home deck. Really, if we were looking for the real reason they didn’t make finals, that would be it. It is the same monkey on the back of the Gold Coast Suns this season, as well.

But there is no goal umpire to blame in 2024.

There is no errant decision that will be the reason the Crows will miss finals. They might yell and scream about Sam Draper’s swan dive onto the footy in the dying seconds of the loss to Essendon, or the call against Izak Rankine for running too far against Collingwood, but ultimately, the performance of the Adelaide Crows this season rests fair and square on the shoulders of this team and their coach. There is no blaming someone else for this mess.

This is their own fault.

There was a strong belief that the Crows would take the next step in 2024. After such a disappointing end to the 2023 season, it was assumed that they would use the disappointment of last season to catapult them into contention this season.

They had the pieces in place – a workmanlike back six that unearthed some genuine talent in Hinge, Worrell, and Michalanney in 2023. A solid midfield group with Jordan Dawson emerging as an excellent leader. And a potent forward line boasting the likes of Walker, Thilthorpe, Fogarty, Rachele, and Rankine.

Read that forward line back again… that is some collection of talent.

However, we haven’t had the opportunity to see that forward line function in a way that we hoped.

Thilthorpe went down early, Rankine tore his hammy on that ill-fated run against the Pies, Tex is now on the sidelines, and Rachele has had moments that have made people question his heart.

The sure-thing forward line has been relegated to a third of the ground that houses players like Chris Burgess and James Borlase as marking targets.


So, is injury to blame?

It hasn’t helped – that’s a certainty, but when you lose to a team like Richmond, who had 14 on their injury list, and fielded a team with an underdone Dion Prestia and Tim Taranto, pointing to injuries seems like a complete cop out.

Watching the Crows squander inside 50 after inside 50 against the Tigers, then start settling for a slow, patient (read – timid) build-up when the game was there to be won… they looked like a team that simply did not believe in what they were doing.

And that leads us to the senior coach.

Earlier this season, Matthew Nicks made some coaching decision that made me scratch my head. Figuratively, at least. I suspect the dandruff was what genuinely made me scratch my head.

Remember his decision to play Luke Pedlar as a defensive forward on Tom Stewart? The Geelong defender dominated the bloke, and when it became apparent that Pedlar was not going to get the job done, Nicks didn’t replace him with someone else to stifle Stewart. No, no… he just left Stewart alone inside defensive fifty, moving Pedlar up the ground. And Stewart licked his lips.

“Baffling” was the word used to describe the decision – a decision that saw Stewart lead the Cats in disposals, intercepts, and metres gained. The Cats stormed into Adelaide Oval and took the game, and Nicks just seemed to open the gates and let them in to do so.

This, days after Nicks signed a two-year extension.

Let’s use that word again… baffling.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for this mob? Or is it just an oncoming train?

If Adelaide can take solace in anything, it is that fortunes can change rapidly in the AFL. In 2022, the Carlton Football Club were bundled out of the finals race in the last game of the season, as they basically shit the bed over the last month. The start of 2023 saw Blues supporters ropeable, as the club failed to deliver, and the tenure of Michael Voss was being questioned by just about everyone.

However, they stuck fat with their coach, and they turned it around.

Of course, the Blues had a duo like Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow to work with up forward. It’s a bit different when you have Chris Burgess and James Borlase, huh?

Do the Crows emulate what Carlton did and stay the course to see what they can salvage from 2024? Do they back their coach and his system to turn things around in short order? Or is it time to make tough decisions and focus on 2025?

Adelaide now sits on four and a half wins from 12 games. Whilst the phrase “mathematical possibility” is not being bandied about yet, they’d have to go on an absolute tear over the next couple of months to feature in September this season, and with back-to-back games against the Swans and Giants upcoming, we may well see them completely ruled out by the end of June.

That said, what would a couple of wins do?

They will get Walker and Rankine back in the short term. A few weeks later, Himmelberg and Thilthorpe will become available. The forward line will take on a different look, and with Nick Murray close to being available after playing SANFL, the defence might be a little more solid, as well.

I’m giving the Crows one last chance. A Saturday night win against Sydney breathes life into their season. A loss sucks the air out of the room.

And two-year extension, or not… Matty Nicks may just be struggling to breathe if they cannot get over the Swans.


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