Dawson's Peak: How Adelaide Won The Trade Period
Jordan Dawson is a difference maker.
Taking all things into consideration at the end of the 2021 season, Dawson was clearly the best player to have moved during the trade and free agency periods and has immediately boosted Adelaide’s hopes of jumping out of the bottom four.
Some may indicate hyperbole is a factor here, but the new Crow is perhaps one of the league’s most underrated, versatile players.
We must unpack Dawson’s career a little before completely selling this as a turning of the tide for the Crows.
Starting the season across half-back before moving onto the wing more permanently, the 24-year-old strung together an impressive season featuring some incredible games that resulted in a third-place finish in the Swans’ best-and-fairest.
Dawson was rated elite for his average of 22.3 disposals, 467.6 metres gained, 3 tackles, 13.3 pressure acts, 4.2 score involvements, 3.3 spoils, 3 inside 50s and 1 contested mark a game.
With an above average 5.4 intercepts, 5.5 marks, 4.9 rebounds and 4 groundball gets per game, it was clear that in his first full-season as a trusted member of the Sydney team, he became the most well-rounded player in the squad. He even defended close to 2 one-on-ones a game and rated above average for his win rate.
Consider all these statistics and add the fact that Dawson’s kicking efficiency sat at an incredible 76.9% for the season, and we must accept that the former pick 56 is one of the league’s most damaging players.
Three particular games out of the 2021 season indicate just how impactful and versatile the 192-centimetre South Australian is, and why Adelaide fans are so excited by his addition to the team.
In Round 10 against Fremantle, he was stationed as the main floater in defence to impact contests. He finished with 31 disposals, 10 intercepts, 6 marks, 711 metres gained and an astonishing 17 rebound 50s, just one off the record.
In the excellent Round 17 win against the Bulldogs, Dawson was the difference offensively, with 26 disposals, 11 contested possessions, 2 marks inside 50 and 3 goals.
Then to cap it off, in the final round of the home-and-away season against the hapless Suns, Dawson finished with a career-high 33 disposals, 16 marks, 8 inside 50s, 689 metres gained, 2 goal assists and 1.1.
In the space of one season, the Sturt product showcased his ability in all three areas of the ground in a way that was as dominant as it had been previously at a lower level.
In the NEAFL in 2017 Dawson played 15 games, averaging 28.5 disposals, 7.9 marks, 5.5 tackles, 4.7 clearances and kicked an unbelievable 38.25.
In 2018, he played just 7 NEAFL games, averaging 22.7 disposals, 9 tackles and kicking 11 goals. The season included a game in which Dawson had 29 disposals, 24 tackles and kicked 3 goals in a loss to the Suns.
He was deployed in a variety of different roles at AFL level until this season, including his impressive 15.1 in 20 games in 2019, but it has been glaringly obvious since Dawson was drafted, that he had to be used higher up the ground to fully maximise his elite use by foot.
Culminating in his much-adored 2021 season, we can see the clear trends that indicated the base level of his game had hardly been scratched.
It brings us to the trade value that dragged Dawson’s desired trade to his home state into the last day of the trade period.
Sydney received a future Demon first round pick in exchange for their breakout star which, circumstantially in the 2021 trade space, was a fair as it would get, but in reality, Adelaide have landed themselves a steal.
No doubt, the Swans will have access to great talent in the 2022 draft, and their talent identification is among the league’s best, but they have as big a right to feel underpaid as the Crows do in thinking they got an absolute steal.
Immediately, we consider which position he will play and it seems increasingly likely that Dawson will look to become the league’s best wingman next season, in tandem with the impressive Paul Seedsman.
We saw just how damaging and influential Adelaide’s newest recruit can be in the backend of Sydney’s campaign and with the likes of Lachie Sholl, Brodie Smith and Wayne Milera best suited to rebounding roles, it’s the best fit.
That absolutely isn’t to say that the Crows will, or even should, pigeonhole Dawson into one particular position.
Adelaide finished 2021 averaging the second-fewest kicks in the league, averaged 5 fewer marks than any other club, had the fourth-worst disposal efficiency and were ranked 10th and 9th respectively in metres gained and intercepts.
There’s no doubt that the club took a step forward after a dire 2020 season, but gaping holes were obvious and a growing disconnect was formed in the counter-attacking play with some poor use from the midfield and which nullified the best efforts of Seedsman and Smith.
Dawson’s inclusion is tantalising because his versatility can be used to great effect at Adelaide, in a very different way to how Sydney used him prior to this past season.
This isn’t a matter of finding the right role for a player. Dawson can help Tom Doedee at times aerially in defence, can sit across half-back if players are missing and even as resting forward who can average a goal a game.
He is such a big body with ample midfield experience to suggest he can take 10-20% of centre bounces to offer something different, improving Adelaide on the inside with his attack on the ball.
Yet again, though, it seems the most consistent spot we will see Dawson in is on the wing, where the transformation really takes place.
It isn’t ridiculous to suggest that the Crows will adopt a very Brisbane-like counter-attacking style going forward after adding Dawson.
This has potential to be the quickest, deadliest kicking team on the counter in the competition, with three elite users by foot who all rank highly in metres gained.
The offensive struggles that have burdened the Crows outside of a veteran will exist no longer with the amount of ball Dawson gets in between the arcs.
Riley Thilthorpe and teammates will thrive in the space and opportunities given to them by the intelligent forward 50 entries that Dawson and co. will provide and which should result in a far more efficient attack.
A lot has gone wrong for Adelaide in recent times consisting of a rebuild which has appeared a little shaky. Yet recent drafting of elite young talent in key positions and a new star recruit has given this club a different feel going forward.
Jordan Dawson enters Adelaide as one of the club’s very best players and his inclusion into this young squad has almost singlehandedly transformed the former cellar-dwellers into a dangerous team for the future.
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