Still reason to fly as 1 in 21
By Daniel Emilio Amato
On the eve of Round One 2020, it was assumed Adelaide would endure a difficult season, but to be 1-13 with only three games remaining was far the expectations of the football world. Albeit a young and emerging club, the Crows have suffered their lowest fall in club history. Unless they win the next three games against Greater Western Sydney, Carlton and Richmond, and North Melbourne continue losing, they will almost certainly miss the finals for a record-equalling third consecutive season, and also ‘win’ their maiden wooden spoon.
With up and coming, young talent in Darcy Fogarty, Elliott Himmelberg, Fischer McAsey, Harry Shoenberg, Lachlan Murphy, Tyson Stengle, Riley O’Brien and Shane McAdam expected to play major minutes this season. As well as retaining a strong nuclease of experienced players in the Crouch brothers, Bryce Gibbs, Daniel Talia, David Mackay, Luke Brown, Rory Sloane, Taylor Walker and Tom Lynch, it was not unrealistic for Adelaide fans to expect a competitive side, certainly capable of producing more than one win. It is now obvious, rookie coach Matthew Nicks has a lot of shuffling to do over the pre-season.
While the Crows had a well-known ‘clean out’ last year with the departures of Andy Otten, Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins, Richard Douglas, Sam Jacobs and the like, it seems this may need to happen again. Bryce Gibbs and David Mackay both appear to be in their final seasons, expected to be shown the door. Brad Crouch seems more likely to seek a move to Victoria than not, but the Crows should be aiming to keep Matt, who struggles to avoid the ‘trade-talk.’ While Talia and Sloane are still valuable enough in their positions and impact on the team, and it is likely Tom Lynch will return for 2021, Taylor Walker is the sentimental one.
While no one can deny the contribution Walker has made for Adelaide both on and off the field, captaining the team through its darkest time of 2015 with the tragic death of Phil Walsh, and two years later being just the second man in club history to captain them into a Grand Final, it seems the best has passed for Tex. While he is the heart and soul for Adelaide, it is not about Walker anymore, he is realistically not going to be part of the Crows next premiership, which is not a strong prospect for at least 4-8 years. Where it is different in respect to Talia and Sloane, Walker is unfortunately taking the position away from either Darcy Fogarty or Elliot Himmelberg, who over the next decade are going to be the central of Adelaide’s attack, along with Murphy and Stengle.
While Fogarty and Himmelberg are still developing, they need to be given maximum game time for hands-on experience to learn their craft and create chemistry between one another. While it seems unlikely at this stage, the two could eventually form a dynamic duo similar to that of a Hawthorn ‘Franklin-Roughead’, capable of kicking 40-80 goals per season each. This cannot be done if Taylor Walker is in the way, either physically taking their spot or being seen by midfielders and defenders as the ‘go-to-man’. A prime example of where this works is last season’s dropping and eventual trading of Sam Jacobs, who for years was Adelaide’s lead ruckman. The club finally made the decision to play Riley O’Brien instead, which has paid dividends and he is now beginning to flourish.
Adelaide has historically had a difficult time moving on, ten years ago they continued to play the ageing likes of Andrew McLeod, Brett Burton, Simon Goodwin and Tyson Edwards over the young Daniel Talia, Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane types, this was part of the reason they endured 11th and 14th finishes in 2010-2011. They waited too long and were subsequently forced to field a side of 18 year old’s with no experience, after those older players all retired at the same time, and they had not previously tried the young talent evenly with consistent pace.
Adelaide are in a tough spot now, part of that is again holding on to those older players too long, then departing them at once and being forced to field too many younger players all at once without even progression. Next season, Matthew Nicks will surely need to see his side win significantly more games, or else he too could be in a spot of bother. As long as Crows fans can see the younger players out there, with a decent nuclease of experience in the correct places, there is still reason to fly as one.
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