by Anthony Cream
1. There are few things in recent years that fans of AFL in general expect, Ie. Richmond to choke and miss finals, West Coast to lose every game they play in Melbourne, Collingwood to play 3 quarters of their games without travelling etc. However in a year where the competition seems to be the tightest it’s been in longer than a decade, it would seem plausible to suggest that up to a dozen teams at this stage have a shot at going deep into September… Except Adelaide unless they adapt.
2. Sitting second on the ladder would suggest they’re a legitimate contender, but the way in which they’ve lost every one of their 4 games is scarily similar and should be worrying for crows fans. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you would know that teams are now tagging Rory Sloane on a weekly basis, and in a competition where contested possessions are now more valuable than ever, the constant knock on Adelaide that they lack a midfield that can win a contested ball without Sloane is ringing more true by the week. It would be easy to say that the team as a whole are in a “form slump”, but reality is it’s been 7 weeks (8 inclusive of the bye) and while they’ve managed to beat Brisbane, St Kilda and Fremantle which was expected, a third of the season is too long to make changes to what you know is coming.
3. While the crows have arguably the best forward line in the competition, reality is they can’t rely on them every week when they can’t win the midfield battle. In their first 3 losses this season they were beaten by 43 in contested possessions, 24 in inside 50s and 28 in clearances, and while they won all those key indicators against a rapidly declining Hawthorn on Friday night it’s not enough to just kick it in hope and pray for something to happen.
4. Watching the game last Thursday night against the Hawks night was painful to say the least, watching Adelaide repeatedly bomb long into the forward line without lowering their eyes, hoping that their forwards would take a contested mark just to watch Hawthorn make it look so easy. They had 12 more entries for 3 less marks inside the arc and in their other losses this year, broke even with Geelong in entries but conceded 5 more marks, got beaten in both areas by Melbourne by 4 and 3 respectively and didn’t even decide to get off the team bus until quarter time against North Melbourne. Just for the record, in their semi final loss to Sydney last year, they got smashed in both contested possessions and clearances and also gave away more marks inside 50.
5. Taylor Walker has been one of a number of present and past players to come out this week, saying “We need to take a step back and enjoy the challenge that when it gets really ugly and yuck we are able to win like that. In the matches we’ve lost we haven’t been able to grind our teeth, get our knees dirty and play that way.” The issue is it’s been a recurring theme not only this season and echoes the sentiments of fans well before the last few weeks but ever since a brownlow medallist capable of winning more than his fair share of contested ball and helping Sloane in the middle decided to return home. Ben Hart has reiterated these concerns this week, saying “Right now one of the easiest jobs in football is to tag Rory Sloane” and nobody can disagree with him, a lack of hardness and aggression on a consistent basis is undoubtedly the predominant reason they find themselves losing games they should’ve won.
6. While a 6-0 start to the season had many thinking the Crows had it figured out, they’ve since gone 3-4, losing every game in the same way they did last season. If this year has proven anything it’s that people shouldn’t bother with footy tipping because any team can beat another and that no lead is insurmountable Eg. Sydney v Essendon last Friday night. I never studied rocket science but Rory Sloane needs help and the crows need to hit targets inside 50 if they want to mount a charge come September because a failure to adapt especially when you know what needs to be done and why won’t cut it, demonstrated by a subpar record since the best start in the crows history. With Carlton tagger Ed Curnow almost a certainty to go to Sloane this weekend it will be interesting to see if those around him actually stand up for him for once, particularly when the calls for help are getting louder by the day, if not, what will it take?