Something To Crow About: How Adelaide Caused The Shock Of The Round

No one wanted to invite the Adelaide Crows to their summer barbecues. 

In fact, Adelaide were explicitly told to stay away, with their profound and rapid decline leaving them on the nose within the AFL community.

From Minor Premiers and Grand Finalists in 2017, to 3-14 Wooden Spooners last season, the Crows death spiral was one of the most spectacular in AFL history, prompting the club to drastically re-evaluate their place within the footy landscape.

Expectations were thus low heading into 2021, with many viewing Adelaide’s best-case scenario as an avoidance of another wooden spoon, perhaps showcasing a few promising faces from within league’s youngest squad along the way. 

All of which made their opening round upset of Geelong the most jaw-dropping result of the weekend. 

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Adelaide pitted the league’s least-experienced outfit up against the sport’s veritable Methuselah in a game most considered the surest pick of the weekend's slate of matches.

And instead of rolling over, the Crows led from start to finish, channelling a little of the Geelong game-plan in the process, while exhibiting the kind of toughness we haven’t seen from the club in some time. 

Do you know how many times Geelong were out-marked in their 21 games last season? The answer was just once, with Geelong humming its possession-heavy mantra all the way to its first grand final in 9 years

So for Adelaide to thus out-mark the tempo kings 90-80 was highly significant, and proved the driving force behind the Crows generating deep entries toward the completely rejuvenated Tex Walker and Tom Lynch, with the pair appearing, surprisingly, as the league’s most damaging key forward combo of the round.

Walker's 5 goals and Lynch’s 4 goal assists were the weekend’s best returns, with the duo also combining for 15 marks.

Speaking of rejuvenation, it was indeed the Crow's old guard who led the way, with All-Australians Rory Laird, Brodie Smith and Rory Sloane all producing at least 460 metres gained, with veteran Paul Seedsman chiming in with a team-high 554 of his own.

While Adelaide's 317 total disposals was the round's third-worst figure, they were able to achieve some genuine (and rare) penetration against the Cats, producing a massive 19.50 metres gained per disposal which also led to 51 inside-50s. This greatly unsettled a Geelong defence more used to picking off typically panicked entries. 

For a re-building club such as Adelaide to have it’s senior core step up so well must have been extraordinary heartening for the club’s braintrust, while providing a sense of calm to coach Matthew Nicks.

Remarkably, no less than 14 Adelaide players took the field on Saturday with less than 13 games of AFL experience, including a couple of debutants in Sam Berry and James Rowe. In a further positive note for the Crows, Adelaide’s trio of 2020 first round draft picks, including the highly-touted Riley Thilthorpe, watched on from the stands. 

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It’s of course just the first lap of an intense, gruelling marathon, while the Stats Insider futures model remains unmoved, affording the Crows just a 19.3% chance of playing finals.

And while the ‘let’s not get carried with Round One results’ robot continues to spin wildly across the footy universe, it’s certainly worth celebrating this Crows win, while it’s one fellow rebuilding clubs such as North Melbourne, Gold Coast, Essendon and Collingwood could do well to learn from.

No, the Crows weren’t invited to your barbecue, but they made their own private party, which is very often the best kind.

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James Rosewarne

James is a writer and Managing Editor at Stats Insider. He likes fiction and music. He is a stingray attack survivor. He lives in Wollongong.

Email- james@thehypometer.com for story ideas or opportunities.

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