You know, this time last year the Crows were limping into the season. Players were underdone, and some wouldn’t get up for the season at all. They were the walking wounded and had been physically and mentally punished after the 2017 Grand Final loss.
Of the top ten players in their 2017, only one would go on to play every game in 2018 – Sam Jacobs. The remainder of that top ten - names like Sloane, Crouch x 2, Lynch, Walker and Betts all sat for extended time, missing a total of 80 combined games. Their 2018 performance spoke of a team that just didn’t get a clean run at it.
What a difference 12 months can make, huh?
Whilst the attention of the football world has turned to Collingwood, West Coast and Richmond, the Adelaide Crows have rebooted, and look ready for a tilt at the top four in 2019. And you know what – I don’t think the Giants will be too far away either.
You could be forgiven for forgetting just how formidable the pairing of Matt and Brad Crouch can be in the middle. If you needed a reminder, they provided one tonight. Matt collected a game-high 38 touches, and Brad notched 31 as they dominated the midfield, adding 11 clearances between them.
Both brothers have such an innate ability to sense contact, get the hands ready to release and fin a teammate, and when you get players amassing those sort of numbers, and both are traveling at over 80% efficiency… you’re gonna get hurt.
Stephen Coniglio was really the only midfield obstacle standing in the Crouch Brothers’ way tonight. Overlooked for the 2018 AA squad (a crime), Coniglio battled on, collected 37 touches, six clearances and delivered the ball inside 50 nine times. Whilst a few will point to the departure of Dylan Shiel as one of the main reasons the Giants’ mids were beaten, his replacement, Tim Taranto, racked up 28 touches of his own.
So is Taranto the perfect Shiel replacement? He was screaming out for more minutes in the middle last year. This year, he gets it. I'm not sure he'll be as effective, but this is his chance to grow into the role.
If anything was responsible for the Adelaide mids appearing to run riot, it was the absence of Josh Kelly (no JLT games this season) that probably hurt the Giants most. You throw him in there and the pressure eases on both Coniglio and Taranto.
Mumford splitting ruck contests will aid the Giants as well. Big Dawson Simpson had moments, but he's not an elite ruck.
If anyone was questioning whether Wayne Milera will be lining up off half back in round one, I believe that tonight will lay their fears to rest. I reckon only non-Adelaide supporters were questioning his position, personally. Milera was able to combine beautifully with Brodie Smith and Rory Laird across half back to provide rebound all night long, and also had several fine moments in the air as well. He finished with 29 touches at 100% efficiency for the game – close to a flawless game across half back. Whilst he spent the majority of his time in the back half, he was able to snag a goal thanks to a very soft 50 metre penalty against Himmelberg in the middle.
One of the questions I’ve been asked recently (as though I am some kind of expert, right?) is whether Milera can work in concert with Smith and Laird. It’s a good question, and the JLT series is probably not going to answer it for us. There will come times this season where a mismatch means the answer looks like a resounding “no”! And there’ll be others where the three work so cohesively that you’ll start to wonder how they ever got along without each other.
The first couple of hurdles for the threesome have been cleared quite easily, but in two weeks, the heat goes on. One will get Gunston, and one will get Breust. Whoever the third is will have to play the best floating game he can to give the Crows the boost they need across half back. I know the Hawks historically play well at Adelaide Oval, but I can’t see Adelaide dropping the opener. Buried amid this wall of text, I reckon it’ll be the Crows by 7-8 goals. I feel dirty…
Now, I loved seeing Tex Walker attacking the contest. His power was on display on a couple of occasions, and the way he was taking the ball so cleanly in his hands was a delight to see. In full flight, there are few as imposing as a rampaging Walker attacking the contest. The way he got rid of Matt Buntine with a fend off was vintage Walker. There was a touch of arrogance to it, shoving Buntine away as if he were swatting away annoying mosquito. I loved it.
It was interesting to hear the chatter about the potential choice between Lachie Murphy and Chayce Jones for a spot in the round one team. For me, you either take a player who will be desperate at the contest and the man, but lacks a bit of polish, or you take the guy who has poise (for a kid) and hits targets, but lacks the mongrel. I’m not sure you can make a wrong call here. Murphy’s attack on Coniglio on the wing in the second quarter demonstrated that he knows his asset is his physical pressure, but there was Jones at full forward, making Adam Tomlinson pay for daring to play on. His tackle and goal were the kind of actions Don Pyke would remember, and if he didn’t remember, I’m sure Jones will remind him.
Apart from some really inaccurate efforts in front of goal, we saw a little of what Bryce Gibbs should bring in 2019 tonight. I had this feeling he was a little more outside tonight, as he should be when you have Sloane and the Crouch family in the middle, but then I look at the stats and he had the most clearances on the ground. Mark my words- if the three inside ball winners stay healthy, Gibbs will be a potent weapon this season.
I thought Jeremy Cameron and Toby Greene looked great early on. Leon Cameron obviously saw enough from Greene, and rested him in the second half, but god damn he has a way of just bobbing up and making a difference. He had a goal and two direct goal assists pretty early in the game, and his kick out of mid air for the Giants’ first was class of the highest order.
Of course, not to be outdone, Eddie Betts conjured an equally amazing goal at the other end minutes later. Whilst both goals were absolute hustle, Betts’ goal came after repeated efforts to keep the ball in play. It’s very hard to spilt them for the play of the night. I suppose in the end I go for the hard work over opportunism… Eddie’s goal was better.
In terms of Greene, there’s no question in my mind that he has to be in the top five players for the entire season at GWS for them to challenge. What he adds to that team is the element of mongrel that I love. When he is on the park, his teammates walk that much taller. It’s the kind of presence you simply cannot manufacture – players either have it, or they don’t.
I liked the way Cameron was presenting early. His attack on the ball was excellent, and he took a couple of nice overhead grabs. That seemed to fade in the second half, and I felt he was starting to look for a cheap goal.
There are a few defenders I really love watching. Two of them were involved in this game. At one end you had the future, in Tom Doedee. His poise under pressure is wonderful. The way he kills contests either by thumping the ball out of the area, or uses his body to move his opponent out of the contest belies his youth. At the other end you have Phil Davis, who is maybe the best pure defender in the game. I know that’s saying a bit, given he was in this specific game with Daniel Talia up the other end, and there are others such as Dylan Grimes, Alex Rance and Harris Andrews around, but as a personal preference, I’d take Davis.
After the start Eddie Betts had, I want to give a shout out to Heath Shaw for the role he played for the Giants. I believe they missed Shaw in last year’s finals more than anyone realises. Shaw never shirks an issue, and unlike many of the sweeping half back players, he actually takes on big jobs on quality players. I enjoyed seeing him chasing Betts around for the first half today, and you know that when the Giants match up against Hawthorn, he’ll want Breust. When they match up against Port Adelaide, he’ll want Robbie Gray. I hope Heater gets a clean run all through this season – his presence may be very important as September looms.
Overall, the first half was a very defensive affair. The Crows got on top, but I thought the ebb and flow of the game favoured neither team substantially. Both teams were employing pretty tight defensive structures, which led to both defensive units chipping it around, waiting for an opening. The Crows probably displayed better foot skills overall, hence the lead, but I noticed that both teams were a little reluctant to try that 55 metre diagonal kick that seems to bust the game open (or turn over). Those kicks take some guts, and there were plenty of players capable of executing it. They just didn’t seem to want to take the responsibility.
I was interested to see Josh Jenkins able to use the extended hand to create distance for himself in order to mark in the first quarter. Whilst I am not sure he got his hand completely in the back of Phil Davis, I reckon it may have been looked at as a potential free kick last season. I’m so glad that rule is done.
Either both teams have no idea how to use this new kick in rule effectively, or they’re keeping strategy under their hat in the lead up to the new season. I’d like to think it’s the latter.
There’s a bit to be said for kicking the ball with force, isn’t there? Two Toby Greene shots around the corner were cut off tonight. The first one – a dribbler – was cut off by Alex Keath as it rolled toward goal in the second quarter. The second one was a snap around the body in the third from about 35 out, and it dropped ten metres short. That said, at least Greene’s kicks were on line. I don’t know what Bryce Gibbs was aiming for when he got the ball inside 50.
A few quick highlights.
Isaac Cumming’s tackle (tee hee) on Lachie Murphy in the third quarter was a blinder. This is the first real chance I have had to have a good look at him, and I like what I see. Ditto for Jye Caldwell, who did a couple of nice things without overstepping and trying to do too much.
I loved the first half of Rory Sloane. He seems to be cherry-ripe to start this season after struggling at the beginning of the 2018 season.
One thing I noticed is that players instinctively kick toward the boundary line when going inside 50 to a contest, even when their teammate has position on the inside of the contest. I know a stoppage is the second most desired result, but by assuring that, you’re sometimes completely preventing the chance of the number one preferred option, which is the forward marking it. I saw it a couple of times tonight, and just felt for the forwards as they’d made position to receive on a decent angle, and then had to work back into the contest close to the boundary line.
Really nice night for Brodie Smith. His run out of defence started many a forward thrust, and the bump he put on Matt de Boer was a cracker.
Rumours of Sam Jacobs' demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Sam Taylor looked pretty good in defence- a couple of handy intercepts from him.
It sounded to me as though Dermott Brereton was only seeing one tram on the park tonight. Open both eyes, Derm.
Cam Ellis Yolman looks like a building with legs. Am I right in thinking he might miss round one basically due to the embarrassment of riches the Crows have with big bodied mids? If so, he is an absolute luxury to have as a backup. He would walk into a dozen midfields.
Jeremy Cameron drawing a free kick for contact below the knees against Eddie Betts in the last quarter… I really didn’t like it. that rule was brought in to stop players sliding in stops-first, ala Lindsay Thomas. What Betts was doing was making a legitimate play on the ball, putting his body over it, and Cameron knew exactly what he was doing. Dermott Brereton talked up the intelligence of Cameron to use the rule to his advantage. Personally, I hated it.
Finally, Nigel Grivell, if you’re reading, did you see Darcy Fogarty only played a quarter? What a disappointment! Please message me so we can lament this privately.
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