We are only four rounds into the season but the Adelaide Crows have been the most impressive team thus far in 2017.
The side is well coached, well-structured, and highly talented. While there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and finals, they are playing a brand of football that rightly has them as one of the Premiership fancies.
The season is perfectly set up
Before the season commenced, opening games for Adelaide against GWS, Hawthorn and a Showdown with Port Adelaide would have been identified as a tough start.
Essendon in round four was also a difficult fixture to judge with no one really sure how the Bombers would perform on-field with their suspended players returning after a one year absence.
Adelaide has come through the opening month unbeaten and is now perfectly positioned to set up a Premiership assault.
While upsets will no doubt occur and injuries and form can fluctuate, it seems entirely possible that Round 11 clash with Geelong at Skilled Stadium will be the earliest the Crows won’t enter a game as favourite to win.
Adelaide Crows setting the pace
|Round 5||Suns||Metricon Stadium|
|Round 6||Tigers||Adelaide Oval|
|Round 7||Kangaroos||Blundstone Arena|
|Round 8||Demons||Adelaide Oval|
|Round 10||Dockers||Adelaide Oval|
|Round 11||Cats||Simonds Stadium|
Goals, goals and more goals
The statistics confirm what most of us already know from the opening rounds. The Adelaide forward line is the best in the competition. The Crows have kicked over 100 points in every game so far this season and currently average 19.2 goals per match.
Eddie Betts is currently leading the Coleman medal with 16 goals and Taylor Walker, despite missing the opening game of the season, is ranked in the top 10.
Josh Jenkins and Mitch McGovern, currently on the sidelines through injury, will return to strengthen the forward line further. Which is a scary thought for opposition clubs.
The goal scoring power is certainly no shock and really is a continuation of last season. In 2016 the Crows averaged 16.5 goals per match and were ranked number one in the competition for scoring.
A blend of youth and experience
Adelaide Crows setting the pace in demographics as well with their list certainly suggesting the Crows are well positioned. The vast majority of the current team has had some type of previous Finals experience with the Crows playing Finals in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
Currently the list only contains three players over 30 years of age – Scott Thompson, Eddie Betts and Richard Douglas. The average age of the squad at beginning of the season was 23 years and 340 days, which was ranked in the middle of all clubs. Plenty of youth is at the club but the Crows still have nine players on the list who have played over 100 games.
Some pundits believe Finals experience counts for plenty to win a Premiership. The Western Bulldogs certainly managed to buck that trend last year. The Hawks as expected are a long way ahead of other AFL clubs with total Finals experience on their list. Which is expected given their recent long-term success.
|Greater Western Sydney||135|
The Adelaide Crows setting the pace in Finals experience. They have a good mix of Finals experience among the whole squad from the 130 Finals games played. Unlike Melbourne for example who are ranked 15th but fall to last by taking away the 23 Finals game played solely by Jordan Lewis.
After the Crows were bundled out of the Finals last year by Sydney, the midfield was identified as an area requiring some attention. The Bryce Gibbs trade from Carlton did not eventuate and many felt this would be the Achilles heel of the Crows in 2017, who also allowed Jarryd Lyons to depart for the Gold Coast.
So far it has not been an issue. Charlie Cameron especially has stepped up with more midfield minutes. And the Crows have continued to get more games into emerging talent such as Wayne Milera. Scott Thompson is yet to play any senior football this year. And Brad Crouch returning from injury plays his first AFL game this week. So perhaps the depth was not as shallow as previously hyped.
Contested ball in Finals is especially important and no doubt the Crows rely heavily on Rory Sloane. Finally if players such as Matt Crouch can continue to perform, this will be important in spreading the workload.
The time is now
Former Richmond coach Terry Wallace is one of the few in the media who does not seem convinced the Crows can go all the way.
“I fear Adelaide is too offensive to win this year’s Premiership. If a couple of sides work them out I don’t know if Adelaide has the defensive aspect to go with them, if someone can stop them scoring.”
While a lot of work will be put into stopping the Crows’ offense, it is difficult to look at the upcoming fixtures and not see the Crows banking wins. And with that, two home Finals.
Playing at Adelaide Oval will be a daunting prospect for any opposition club during the Finals Series. Don Pyke believes further improvement is still to come while some naysayers believe the Crows have peaked too early with a lot of the season left to unfold. If peaking too early is winning games of football, then most teams would happily take that.
Who knows, the Crows might not have any further improvement in them. But based on current output that should still be enough to see the Adelaide Crows setting the pace at the MCG as well on the last Saturday in September for the first time since 1998.