Our AFL club by club season reviews continue with Adelaide Crows who had an up and down season to say the least.
The Run Down
Words cannot describe the 2015 season for the Adelaide Crows as they faced one of the biggest tragedies in the games history yet still managed to contend strongly in September action. With the appointment of new coach Phil Walsh and new captain Taylor Walker there was a sense of change around the Crows in the lead up to the 2015 season as they looked to make up for two years of missed opportunities and get themselves back into the finals race.
Things started off brilliantly for the Crows as they surprised everybody with three straight wins to open the season including a 77 point demolition over 2014 preliminary finalists North Melbourne. The effects of Walsh’s experience and tactical genius began to show immediately in the Crows game plan as their newly formed team defensive method saw the team gel together like never before. A scratchy period between rounds 4-11 saw the Crows eventually drop out of the top 4 yet still remain entrench in the eight as they consistently got the job done in matches they needed to win.
Sitting in 7th position after round thirteen the club seemed to be very content with the direction by which it was heading as they looked almost certain to push forward to its first finals appearance since 2012. However the whole dimension of the club changed after one tragic incident in the early hours of Friday the 3rd of July. Phil Walsh aged 55 was stabbed by his own son in his own home as the Football world stopped to mourn the loss of one of its longest servants. After a week off to deal with the loss of their senior coach the Crows eventually had to move on and it was under the guidance of interim senior coach Scott Camporeale that the team travelled over to Perth to face the red hot Eagles in what can only be described as a courageous performance by the men from West Lakes. The term “We Fly as One” seemed to become stronger and stronger as the Crows continued their 2015 campaign as the club and its supporters came together.
It seemed as if this tragedy united the team like never before as they powered their way to 6 wins from their remaining matches hence resulting in the Crows booking their first finals appearance in three years. The emotion and unity gathered throughout the final rounds of the season built up to a crescendo as the finals began as the club and its supporters trecked over the boarder in their thousands for two successive weeks to support the team in cut throat finals against the Bulldogs and Hawks. A win for the ages against the Bulldogs in week 1 saw the Crows gain lots of confidence heading into a semi final clash against the Hawks as many people around the land saw the men from West Lakes as an outside chance to go all the way. However it was the strength and power the Hawks that would prove too much for the brave Crows as they were completely outplayed in their semi final clash at the MCG.
In a season full of highlights the best moment of Adelaide’s season happened just weeks after the tragic death of coach Phil Walsh as they geared up to face the Power in what was one of the greatest showdowns of all time. Nobody knew what to expect from Adelaide as they graced the Adelaide Oval for the first time under new coach Scott Camporeale as a 60 point loss to the Eagles the week before saw the Power come in as clear favourites. However in front of a record breaking 54,500 spectators the crows managed to “get the job done” as Walshy would say as they stood together after the final siren jubilated with an inspirational three point win. This win seemed to be the turning point of Adelaide’s season as they managed to go on an amazing streak of five wins from their last seven matches which in turn saw them secure their finals spot.
The rise of young defender Rory Laird also deserves a mention in this category as his excellent ability to read the ball and football smarts saw him begin to blossom into one of the competitions best small defenders. Under the guidance of new coach Don Pyke expect Lairds game to grow even further as he looks to become the true backbone of Adelaide’s inexperienced defence.
In what was one of the worst tragedies ever to hit an Australian sporting establishment the lowlight of the Crows year was definitely the loss of strategic mastermind and senior coach Phil Walsh. Stabbed to death by his own son in the early hours of Friday July 3rd the Crows entered a state of mourning which without a doubt is still taking its toll on a large majority of the playing list. Prior to this tragic incident the Crows were looking extremely promising as Walsh had them playing a brand of footy that was almost guaranteed off field success in future years. As Walsh stated in his very last press conference “Great beauty comes out of a level of frustration and we are hoping there are still some masterpieces to be painted this season.” The Crows did happen to improve dramatically towards the end of the season as they played a brand of footy Walsh would have been proud to watch up in the coaches box. Now with a whole off season to recover who knows what we will get from the Crows next season as the long term impact of this tragic loss could be simply too much for the team to cope with.
Player of the year
Patrick Dangerfield. Despite leaving the club for Geelong at the very beginning of the trade period Dangerfield as easily the best player to don the South Australian tri colours this season. With the constant burden of his contract weighing heavily on his back all year Dangerfield played inspired footy in 2015 as he without a doubt put his heart on the line for the Adelaide Football Club every time he stepped over the white line into battle. Averaging 26.8 disposals a match and ranking 3rd for contested possessions in the league its safe to say that Dangerfield proved himself as one of the competitions absolute best players as his pace from stoppages and bullocking inside work saw him monster opposition players out of the contest. Even his disposal efficiency (which has been one of his major flaws in recent years) improved dramatically this season as he became much more dangerous with ball in hand as he constantly found the chests of Taylor Walker and Eddie Betts inside fifty. Despite his extraordinary 2015 campaign it is now time for Crows fans to say goodbye to their star midfielder as the club looks to move into a new post danger era.
Jake Lever. After trading down the draft order at the end of last season from 10-14 in order to enhance later picks it seemed as if the Crows had gone out of their mind as they missed out on speedster Nakia Cockatoo. 12 months later and it has proved to be a master stroke as the club managed to add another Daniel Talia to its list with the recruitment off young key defender Jake Lever. It would only take six weeks for Lever to get his first look into elite level football as the young Victorian adjusted to the speed of the AFL beautifully with his composure under pressure proving crucial at times for the Crows throughout the season. Although seen as rather skinny for an elite level key defender Lever showed that he had the football brains to beat his opponents one on one before using his composure and excellent kicking efficiency to become and attacking weapon coming from defence. With another full preseason under his belt expect Lever to take his game further in 2016 as he looks to already have the ability to become one of the competitions best defenders.
Coach’s Report Card
It was a relatively good year for all coaches at the Adelaide Football Club as the club played in the finals for the first time since 2012. After two mediocre years under previous coach Brenton Sanderson it was time for change down at West Lakes and it seemed as if Phil Walsh was providing it as some unique moves at the selection table saw the team playing in a way never seen before at West Lakes. After starting off the season with three straight wins Walsh’s vision was unravelling perfectly in the first of the season as his men raced out of the blocks to be sitting at 7-5 after the completion of round 13. With the team sitting pretty going into the second half of the season it would be a tragedy that would force the club to dig deep into its roots as senior assistant Scott Camporeale took over the reigns from round 15 to the end of the season. With nobody knowing what to expect from this young group it was the composure of Camporeale that got the Crows back on track as the team performed brilliantly under his care. Having Walsh’s influence already firmly imbedded into the entire playing group only fine tuning was required by the coaches in the second half of the year as the club rode an incredible wave of emotion to finish inside the top 8. Despite his incredible work throughout the second half of the season Camporeale will return to his role as a senior assistant next season as the appointment of Don Pyke looks to be another master stroke by the Crow’s administration.View image | gettyimages.com
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David Mackay. After eight seasons at AFL level it is now or never for the Crows speedster as his performances in the second half of the year saw him in and out of the side. At his best Mackay can be a real match winner for the Crows as his lightning pace and exquisite ball use have tore opposition sides apart in the past. However in his last two seasons he just hasn’t enjoyed enough consistency in performance as his style of game just doesn’t stand up in big contested matches. Mackay simply needs to improve over this off season as the acquisition of Curtly Hampton and possibly Paul Seedsman could see his spot in real jeopardy heading into round 1 next year. At 27 years of age the time is now for Mackay to live up to his expectations at the Adelaide Football Club as his position in the Crows best 22 seemed worthless at times as he became one of the fans biggest whipping boys throughout the duration of the season.
With the trade period well and truly underway the Crows have been relatively active thus far with the Patrick Dangerfield deal going through on the very first morning. Having already acquired picks 9 & 28 along with youngster Dean Gore from the Cats expect the Crows to now go after GWS youngster Curtly Hampton as he has already announced Adelaide as his preferred destination. With next years second round pick on the table for Hampton the Crows are also heavily linked to Collingwood young gun Paul Seedsman along with Hawthorn rising star Jed Anderson. With four picks inside the top 32 expect Adelaide to offload at least one of these picks to another club throughout this trade period as they also look to acquire Michael Talia from the Western Bulldogs,
Likely 22 for 2016
FB: L.Brown D.Talia K.Hartigan
HB: R.Laird J.Lever M.Jaensch
C: B.Smith B.Crouch R.Sloane
HF: R.Douglas T.Walker T.Lynch
FF: E.Betts J.Jenkins C.Cameron
FOLL: S.Jacobs S.Thompson M.Crouch
I/C: M.Grigg C.Ellis Yolmen J.Lyons C.Hampton