What Went Right?
Although the Crows win-loss record is certainly a failure for such an impressive list, they did do one really big right this year, prove there is no culture problem at West Lakes. The year began with more and more speculation about players leaving the club for ‘greener pastures’, and in what was a turgid season for Adelaide, retaining their stars for another tilt at the top end in 2019 really mattered.
Victorian natives Tom Lynch, Paul Seedsman and most notably, vice-captain Rory Sloane were all near locks to be headed back home, but have all recommitted to the club on deals of at least three more seasons. The club also retained veterans Richard Douglas and David Mackay on short term contracts. Even the most faithful Crows supporter didn’t expect to be holding both Lynch and Sloane come season’s end, let alone for a combined eight more years between them.
Plenty of new talent also came through the ranks at Adelaide this year, with Tom Doedee a real chance at the Rising Star, as well as Jordan Gallucci, Wayne Milera and Darcy Fogarty on the rise, there is plenty of good youngsters to look forward to watching in 2019. Although the Crows couldn’t overcome their on-field demons in 2018, they did slay many of the off-field problems that came their way, eventually.
What Went Wrong?
With an injury list as long and prestigious as Adelaide’s over their 2018 season, it was always going to be hard to get consistency and a team that gelled well every week. Having said that, the Crows dropped a few games they should have had wrapped up during the middle of the season, partially because of their lack of real speed as a side.
Brodie Smith was certainly missed throughout most of the season with ACL dramas, but Wayne Milera is now really the only Crow with any genuine leg-speed, and so when Adelaide’s long kicking, fast play-on style of play goes wrong, there’s no real second option for the Crows. Adelaide needs to nail their plan A, which when it goes right is near unbeatable, but when it goes wrong there’s no obvious plan B to get out of the mud.
Obviously, there were many off-field issues the Crows had to overcome this year too. Their Collective Minds training camp didn’t pay off, the club knows that, and that should have been the end of that. Instead the situation devolved and became a ‘culture problem’.
With so much unwanted media attention and speculation hanging around the club, which both in turn were handled poorly, the mood at West Lakes was poor all year. With confidence already low at the club, plus the additional injury toll and the league’s best clubs figuring out the Crows one and only game plan, 2018 will be a year a proud club would rather forget.
There are plenty of stars in this line-up and although not many of them had their best year, Rory Laird has been a star throughout the season. Laird contributes week in week out, consistently racking up possessions off half back, and destroying opposition sides with an insanely accurate kick, and elite level footy smarts. Laird has made a name for himself as one of, if not the best running defender in the competition and along with players like Daniel Talia, Tom Doedee, Brodie Smith and Paul Seedsman, makes up one of the competition’s more underrated defences.
Laird has starred this year, averaging 31 touches a game, and is ranked inside the competition’s top 10 for handballs, total disposals and rebound 50s, even after missing part of the season with injury. Laird is one player who always needs opposition attention and will surely be selected for his second consecutive All Australian jumper very shortly, after playing nearly a lone hand for the Crows this year.
In a season full of disappointing losses, two major wins stand out, one in round five against the Swans in Sydney by ten points, a tough trip after being beaten at home by Collingwood the previous week. However, the one which will stand out most, to the fans especially, is the round 20 Showdown win against the Power.
The Crows were defeated earlier in the year by their arch rivals by some Steven Motlop magic in the dying seconds, before pipping the Power by three points including a behind by Rory Atkins after the siren. Although by then the season was almost over for Adelaide, that win meant so much for the club and its supporters, downing the old enemy in a real old-fashioned scrap that saw a whole supporter base rally behind its embattled players.
Improvements for 2019
Now it becomes a question of whether an Adelaide side out for vengeance can stay fit over summer. The Crows need to enter next season as ready as possible with as many of their best 22 as they can. Brad Crouch, Brodie Smith, Rory Sloane and skipper Tex Walker need a full preseason under their belts in order to help get their team in a better frame of mind for a much better 2019 season.
The Crows war-chest of draft picks may come in handy this trade period too. With Sam Jacobs aging just a little and their back-up ruck stocks perhaps a little short, South Australian Scott Lycett should certainly be on their radar, as well as local young guns Izak Rankine and Jack Lukosius in this year’s draft. A little more speed wouldn’t go astray either if they could pick some up over the trade period, but the team is already star-studded, and the salary cap is a little tight. Bombers local boy Aaron Francis looks a real star in the making.
From a Grand Final to missing the eight is pretty inexcusable, even with masses of injuries and a real beating from the media. Expect this team to dust themselves off for a big 2019 and be there, or thereabouts once again. 2018 is a year the Crows will want to forget.
Final Grade: D-