The Crows performed better than most expected in 2016 but there is still much work to be done
Photo Source: AAP
Most football experts saw Adelaide sliding down the ladder and out of the eight in 2016 after Patrick Dangerfield transferred to Geelong, but the Crows, under new coach Don Pyke, proved one of the surprises of the season. Their forward line was outstanding, with Eddie Betts, Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins, Tom Lynch, Charlie Cameron and new boy Mitch McGovern a handful for most defences.
They ensured Adelaide kicked the most goals of any team by some way, while Daniel Talia and Rory Laird also had great years down back. Where they weren't quite as impressive was in their midfield. Several players stepped up in the absence of Dangerfield, with Rory Sloane having a brilliant year that saw him pick him a career-high 24 Brownlow votes. He didn't, however, have enough consistent support, and in the finals the Crows were found out badly by Sydney's fleet of elite onballers.
Even if Adelaide hadn't blown their chance of finishing top two by losing to West Coast in the final home-and-away round, you get the feeling their mids weren't going to get them into a grand final. It might have been a different story with Dangerfield.
If the Crows want to take the next step and truly challenge for the premiership, they'll need extra grunt and ability around the ball, where it counts.
Six games that shaped Adelaide's season
Round 4: Adelaide 16.17 (113) d Sydney 15.13 (103)
The Crows had started the season well enough after following a close loss to North Melbourne with two impressive wins over potential finals rivals Port Adelaide and Richmond, but they were up against a powerful-looking undefeated Swans outfit. In one of the games of the season, the lead changed hand 11 times before Eddie Betts got on the end of one at the death to seal the win. Betts, Lynch, Walker featured in a menacing and balanced performance by the whole Adelaide forward line, while veteran Scott Thompson showed he still had plenty left in a great performance in his 250th game for the club.
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Round 10: Adelaide 15.17 (107) d GWS 13.7 (85)
At 5-4, the Crows needed to keep winning if they were to set themselves up for a shot at the finals, though here they came up against a Giants side full of self-belief following wins over the Bulldogs and Hawks. After an even first half, Adelaide slammed on eight goals in the third quarter as their midfield, through Thompson, Richard Douglas and Jarryd Lyons, got on top. GWS rallied in the last term after being 46 points down at the final break, showing that they were no longer going to roll over to teams when things were tough. Tex and Eddie kicked five goals each, with Betts notching the goal of the year for the second consecutive season through a piece of play that demonstrated his incredible ability, opportunism, game awareness and sheer brilliance.
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Round 18: Geelong 12.13 (85) d Adelaide 7.13 (55)
In round eight the Crows' midfield had been found wanting in Dangerfield's return to Adelaide Oval, so there was plenty to prove in this rematch. Adelaide came into this game firing after eight wins on the trot. But just as in the earlier encounter, a close first half in wet conditions was followed by Geelong putting the foot down to kick five unanswered goals. It showed the Crows they still had a bit of work to do if they were going to make the top four. The weather didn't help Adelaide's forwards, but they were soundly beaten as the lack of forward entries, which had been an issue papered over by their efficiency in attack, continued to plague the team.
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Round 23: Adelaide 10.11 (71) lost to West Coast 14.16 (100)
In hindsight, the Crows probably didn't have the ideal preparation going into a home game against the Eagles that they needed to win to secure a top-two finish. Even after four wins over non-finalists, this was a game Adelaide simply had to grab but for all intents and purposes they managed to choke. They fumbled, missed passes they normally would have nailed and generally let the occasion get to them in a disappointing and extremely costly loss. They really missed their best player in Sloane, who was serving a one-game suspension.
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Elimination final: Adelaide 21.15 (141) d North Melbourne 12.7 (79)
The Crows were lucky in the first week of the finals to come up against a Kangaroos team that had limped into September on the back of poor form and an ill-timed, morale-sapping decision to dump four of the club's stalwarts. Adelaide were never going to lose this home final, and after a relatively even first half they blew the game apart with eight goals to three in the third quarter. Betts was on fire, kicking six goals, while Lynch bagged four, with the whole team out-running and out-gunning the visitors.
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Semi-final: Sydney 18.10 (118) d Adelaide 12.10 (82)
The Swans were always going to bounce back after being hammered by GWS in the qualifying final, but the minor premiers were missing Kurt Tippett and Callum Mills. Given they had gone out of the finals series in straight sets the previous year there were doubts that they could avoid it this time round. But the visitors' attack was held brilliantly in the first half, with Betts, Cameron, Walker and Lynch quiet and a completely ineffectual Jenkins appearing injured. Seven Sydney goals in the first quarter virtually ended the contest, even though the Crows did show some fight to bring the 37-point half-time deficit back to three goals just before three-quarter time. The Swans midfield proved too good in the end, displaying too much class. Adelaide's on-ball division was shown up badly, underlining the fact that they did, in fact, miss Dangerfield and will need one, if not two, quality midfield additions for 2017.
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Can the Crows finish top four again? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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