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Monday, March 19, 2018

AFL season preview 2018: Why the Adelaide Crows have a point to prove

It is one of the AFL’s more dubious habits that no team receives a smaller proportion of the credit it deserves for a season than the beaten grand finalist.
It is as if the successes of the year are vaporised in the heat of scrutiny on why it failed on football’s biggest day.
There is no denying it has happened to Adelaide in the wake of their grand final meltdown against Richmond.
What response can we expect from the Crows?
On the one hand, they failed when it mattered and lost intercept defender Jake Lever (Melbourne) and small forward Charlie Cameron (Brisbane) to rival clubs.
Their most important rebounder, Brodie Smith, will be lucky to play at all this year after requiring a knee reconstruction during last season’s finals series.
But the Crows picked up the accomplished Bryce Gibbs from Carlton and still have Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts, Mitch McGovern and Josh Jenkins in attack.
Wayne Milera is only 20 and can be expected to improve, while draftee Darcy Fogarty has a man’s physique at the age of 18 and can be expected to have an impact early.
But for Adelaide, the game’s most potent scoring machine, this is as much a test of method and belief as it is manpower.
Do they stick to what took them to a grand final? Or do they toss it because they failed once there?
This will also test individuals.
Jenkins and Betts were prolific during the home-and-away season but in the grand final combined for 14 touches and one goal.
It was an afternoon to forget.
Captain Walker kicked two goals from 10 disposals, but was not the stirring leader his team needed.
His bid to make a statement from round one this year has been hindered by a foot injury that has affected his run into next Friday night’s tussle with Essendon at Etihad Stadium.
Much will depend on how coach Don Pyke uses Gibbs, although midfield and defence appear most likely.
It should be remembered that the Crows were without the hamstrung McGovern on grand final day. The West Australian might have given them the extra marking target they sorely lacked.
If pushed backward of centre, Gibbs would help cover for Lever or Smith — or both. In the midfield, he bolsters an engine room which was seen as slightly skinny last year and one which won’t be helped by a pre-season abdomen injury which has held Brad Crouch back.
Do the Crows look like a team ready to take the next step? We are not convinced.
They have too much talent to miss the finals, but they could take a bit of a tumble down the ladder.