Adelaide v West Coast - The Good, Bad and Ugly

A sleeping giant began to stir at three quarter time in Adelaide, as the Crows remembered that they’re a team choc-full of talent, and when they apply themselves, are as good as anyone in the game. They ran all over the Eagles in the last quarter to win by ten points.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

The last quarter blast

I’m a simple man, and I’m a child of the eighties. I can relate almost anything back to movies from that period, and tonight, I’d like to liken the Adelaide Crows to Rocky Balboa. In particular, let’s liken them to Rocky in my favourite of the series - Rocky 3.

Stick with me on this.

The Crows were punished by Clubber Lang (Richmond) late last year, and since then, they haven’t been themselves. They stopped believing. They were hurt, and they were haunted by the loss. They ran races on the beach and stopped halfway, staring out into the ocean, not knowing if they had it in them. They’ve questioned whether they have what it takes to go on and challenge the monster that knocked them out on the biggest day of the football year in 2017. They had a brief moment of retribution against Clubber Lang in Adelaide, but it was just one round in a long fight, and the reality of 2018 has seen Lang as the dominant champ, cussing out Rocky’s woman, and growling at the camera at every opportunity.

“You’re a chump, Adelaide… I’m the champ. I’m the champ!”

Tonight, at three quarter time, it was as though they had Apollo Creed walk into the huddle and tell them what they needed to know to turn the tables. He taught them about the eye of the… err, Crow. Yeah, the Eye of the Crow. He took them back to when they were hungry, when they had to fight and scratch and claw to get what they wanted. He showed them that version of themselves… and they liked it!

When they came out in the last quarter, and when the bell sounded, they knew they were ready.

They absolutely pummelled the Eagles, kicking six goals to two to walk away with a win, and head back to the place where the big loss occurred last season. They take on Clubber Lang again next week, and let’s face it, Clubber didn’t even make an appearance in Rocky 4. He didn’t get to fight Ivan Drago. He didn’t get to come out of retirement to fight Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon. Rocky did!

Tonight, the Crows made their season about them again. Its time the Crows stopped being the villains in others' stories and started being the heroes of their own. It ain’t about the Tigers; it’s about the Crows, and if they can return to the MCG next week and knock over Clubber Lang on his home soil, it’ll send an undeniable message to the football world – the Crows are back.

“Eye of the Crow, Adelaide… Eye of the Crow.”

Tex Walker playing like a captain

How do you follow that idiocy?

You do it with fact, and the fact tonight was that when it mattered, Tex Walker stood up the way a captain should. He clunked marks, he banged goals, and he was the catalyst for the Crow revival. He may have burned Bryce Gibbs on one foray forward but he was feeling the moment, and knew it would take something special from their leader to propel them to win.

And that’s what he delivered. He looked every part the leader as he crashed packs and filled his teammates with confidence. Tex won the ‘best captain’ award a couple of years running in the league, and tonight was a great reminder why. You can have a crack at him about his off-season antics, and about his team’s decisions, but don’t question his leadership when you have games like this as evidence.

The Running Man

The clock is still ticking and the running man hasn’t signed a contract to stay at the Eagles. West Coast need to sign Andrew Gaff as soon as possible, especially with teams like North Melbourne willing to throw around massive amounts of cash to lure players.

He was their best again tonight, picking up a bit of slack for having Yeo in defence, and Shuey still not back to his absolute best. He had 37 touches, and seven tackles. He reached double figures for contested possessions and is demonstrating an increased capacity for winning the hardball.

Andrew Gaff still excels at that outside run – there are not many in the game that can go with him, but all good players continually add to their repertoire, and that’s what he has done this year.

Return of Rory

No, we’re not talking about Rory Sloane – he struggled with the close attention of Mark Hutchings.

We’re talking about Rory Laird, who looked like he hadn’t missed a beat despite a couple of games on the sidelines. Laird was a lock for All-Australian selection before his injury, and he let everyone know that the position as half back flanker in that team is still his with a 32 disposal game, travelling at 88% efficiency.

The Crows have such a more settled back six with Laird down there, even when under siege.

Mark Hutchings locking down Sloane

It was a tough ask for Sloane. After ten weeks on the sidelines, he wandered back into the team and was confronted with Hutchings right from the get-go. And he struggled.

I reckon a guy like Hutchings is a shark. He smells the blood in the water and goes into a frenzy. He did not want Sloane to get a clean run at it at any stage, and took a bit of pride in running off Sloane to drive the Eagles inside 50 six times. He finished with 25 touches and six tackles (several on Sloane) to clearly take the points against the returning Crow.

Sloane will be better for the run. He had only 14 disposals and only one of them was uncontested. There was no easy ball for him tonight, and hopefully for him a few teammates can lay a block or two to free him up next week against the Tigers.

Sam Jacobs owning the ruck

This was a huge challenge for Jacobs. There’s been times this season where he hasn’t really looked like it, and then you have a night like tonight, and he looks like a match-winner.

Jacobs took on both Naitanui and Lycett tonight, and he beat both. He finished with 39 hit outs, and 13 contested possessions as part of his 18 touches. He also drifted forward to kick a goal. What he did tonight was outwork and expose Nic Naitanui. He took his run, legally, at stoppages, and made him jump over him to get a hand on the ball.

But the argument for NicNat is that his ruckwork to advantage is always better. Not tonight it wasn't. Jacobs had 16 taps to his mids. Naitanui had nine. Jacobs beat him on all fronts. 

This may be an oxymoron, but it was the thinking man’s game from a ruckman tonight, and it belonged to Sam Jacobs.

Hurn and Sheppard in defence

I can’t finish this category without mentioning Hurn, as he is as resolute in defence as anyone in the game, but Brad Sheppard… he just does the business every week to little or no plaudits. Well, he can have some here.

Whilst Hurn amassed 24 touches and six marks, Sheppard went about his merry way, collected 19 touches and nine marks. As always, it wasn’t the stats that mattered for Sheppard – it was his defensive efforts. He had eight intercept possessions and eight spoils for the game. It’s a shame so much of his good work was brought undone by the Crow avalanche in the last quarter.

THE BAD

Standard of footy in the first half

There’s been a few games like this throughout the season. Both teams just looked as though they either didn’t want to take a risk, or were doubting their skills and didn’t want to be scored against on the rebound.

It made for a horrible game of football. Really skilled players were second-guessing themselves, players were fumbling, and both teams were content to send the ball down the boundary line instead of attacking through the guts.

It took until the final quarter until the game broke right open, and I guess if you’re an eagles supporter, you became aware pretty quickly as to why your team didn’t take the risks earlier.

The best centre half back in the game playing up forward

I understand the theory behind it. With Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Mark LeCras on the sidelines, someone had to provide a target, and there are no better set of hands in the game than Jeremy McGovern, and he did finish with a couple of goals, but what do you miss when you pull him away from defence?

He is the All-Australian Centre Half Back currently, for mine, and here he is struggling to get his hands on the ball forward of centre. The Eagles were forced to throw Elliot Yeo down back to compensate for McGovern’s absence. It’s as unsettling to your own team as it is to the opposition.

Adam Simpson was kind of stuck – if they win and it worked beautifully, then he’s a genius… but they didn’t win, and McGovern had to be moved back in the last quarter to stick his finger in the dyke… you know what I mean, dirty buggers.

For me, I may have opted for a small forward line with Yeo pinch hitting up there as opposed to playing both he and McGovern out of position, but then again, I am a bum writing about footy and Rocky movies on the net for free, and Simpson is an AFL coach, so yeah…

THE UGLY

Nic Naitanui

You know what – he stunk tonight.

He might be hitting the wall after such a strong start to the season, but tonight we got 2015 Grand Final Nic Nat. He was manhandled at stoppages by Sam Jacobs, he didn’t seem to have that impressive leap, and his follow up work was way below the standard he’s set for himself.

Eagles supporters will tell you it’s not what he does with the ball that counts; it’s what he does without it that makes him great. Well, tonight he hardly had the ball, AND he didn’t do anything when he didn’t have it either, so he was doubly-ineffective… if that is even a thing.

He finished with seven touches and one mark. Not in the first quarter… for the game. We touched on Sam Jacobs above, and Naitanui was dominated by him tonight. He needs to lift and not just reply on the return of the star forwards to elevate this team back to the winners’ list.

OTHER BITS

Elliot Yeo on Tex Walker, huh? Yeo actually looked good down back, but how much are you missing having him out of the centre?

Josh Jenkins… seriously if I were an Adelaide supporter, this guy would make me tear my hair out. Actually, I’d probably get so annoyed that I’d tear his hair out instead. The dropped chest mark five minutes into the game right in front of goals… frustrating to everyone else on the team who worked so hard to get it to him.

Talia v McGovern was interesting early on, with both trading marks on the wing.

How did Mr. Poholke have no awareness after receiving from Sloane on the wing by hand. Hutchings had to run 30 metres to get to him and tracked him down easily. Did Sloane not talk? Does Poholke have no peripheral vision?

Lycett had three free kicks inside 50 tonight, and zero marks for the game. That is a forward target reliant on umpiring to get him involved. I would have liked to see him get his hands on at least one mark for the night. You know… earn one.

I really didn’t like the long kick by Seedsman to Walker with two opponents to beat. It looked to me to be the kick of someone who likes the “metres gained” stat next to his name. Sometimes, lowering the eyes for the betterment of the team should sit above the stat that everyone quotes in relation to you.

Nice contested mark by Nic Nat on the wing… his only mark of the game.

Isn’t it amazing how a great defender in McGovern is suddenly being beaten by a sometimes maligned defender in Hartigan? Sometimes the kicking to forwards is atrocious, and McGovern saw a fair bit of that tonight.

Really quiet first half from Bryce Gibbs. He worked his way into it in the second half, but that was the worst half of footy I’ve seen from him this season. And that ‘footsteps’ dropped mark late in the last quarter… well, probably better that it didn’t happen when the heat was on earlier.

If anyone knows why Tex decided to play on after marking 25 metres out, please let me know. I really cannot think of a good reason he’d do that.

People at the game… was it as quiet in the first half as it came across on TV?

You could tell Walker was trying to make something happen. Both teams were being way too safe, but when Tex tried something to open the game up, it backfired. He kicked to Seedsman out in space on the wing. It was a true one-on-one but he was beaten by Hutchings. The ball went back inside West Coast’s 50 where Gaff finished with a quality left footer close to the boundary.

Check out this weird assist by The Fog. We'll allow him to say it's an assist... 

Sometimes I think umpires mistake hard tackles for high tackles. Darcy Fogarty’s tackle late in the second was the former. It was viewed as the latter. I was willing Fog’s long shot from the boundary to get there in the third quarter. Wasn’t a bad effort. He has a cannon for a leg, and it is such a great weapon to have a few players on your team that are in range from 55 metres.

There was a five minute patch in the third where it looked like the wheels were about to fall off for the Crows. A goal to McGovern, then another to Liam Ryan had the Eagles looking good.

Great to see Tom Doedee bang home a goal in the last quarter. Been loving his work all year and thought he was one of the top defenders in the league through the first couple of months. This goal was a cracker – 45 out on a 45 degree angle is like hell for defenders usually, but not for Dodee. You still think he is favourite for the Rising Star award, or has Stephenson at Collingwood gone past him?

Nice shot by Hampton from the boundary, but I loved Sloane’s tackle on Liam Ryan to set it up. Though he didn’t get a heap of it, Sloane’s pressure in the last quarter was excellent. He finished with eight for the game.

Here’s a question about prior opportunity. If you slip out of one tackle then get caught in another, I reckon that’s prior opportunity, right? Because that’s what McGovern did in the last quarter when he slipped Walker’s tackle and then got caught by Sloane. It should’ve been holding the damn ball.

I reckon Seedsman is the barometer for Adelaide. If he is up and running, so are the Crows. If he isn’t being fed some easy ball and has to earn everything he gets… it spells trouble.

The Eagles get the resurgent Giants next week at home. Danger game, and would be the fourth loss in a row. Hurry back Jack and Josh!

The Tigers are on the agenda next week for the Crows… at the MCG. Get up, you sons of bitches… because Mickey loves ya!

 

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