Adelaide were, quite rightly, premiership favourites all year. They played an exciting and electric brand of footy and seemed to relish the pressure that goes with being flag fancies. They were premiership favourites, that is, right until halfway through the second quarter of the Grand Final.
In a season full of big wins, their best probably came in a crucial Showdown 43. The Power were woeful while the Crows were electric, hammering their closest rivals by 84-points, a record Showdown margin. Adelaide never let Port on the park, dominating the contest and it could have been so much better with errant kicking for goal holding them back.
Sam Jacobs claimed the Showdown Medal with 12 disposals, two goals and six tackles to go with 42 hit outs.
On the biggest stage of them all, the best thing you could say about the Crows was that they scored the first two goals. Adelaide spent all of Grand Final week looking like the premiers-in-waiting while arguably, Richmond just looked happy to be there.
They started the game brightly, and went into half-time with an 11-point lead. But Richmond’s manic high press shut down Adelaide’s usually slick ball movement and left them completely unable to exit their defensive half. They only managed to score four goals after quarter time which was double their first quarter tally. Captain Tex Walker, Josh Jenkins and Eddie Betts were nowhere to be seen.
Post-game, rumours of in-fighting rubbed salt into the wounds.
Jake Kelly spent all of 2016 playing the SANFL but was a critical part of Adelaide’s back six this year. Not to be confused with another J Kelly in orange and charcoal who had a career-best year himself, Adelaide’s J Kelly played off half-back and was a key link between defence and the midfield and was rarely beaten one-on-one. With Jake Lever’s departure, Kelly will need to play an even bigger role next year.
Best and fairest:
Matt Crouch continued to rack up the possessions this year, averaging 13 contested, 20 uncontested, almost five tackles and 33 disposals per game.
For a time, it looked to be a two-horse-race between Crouch and Rory Sloane as to who would take B&F honours, but a lean middle part of the season for the latter (which coincided with teams throwing a tag on him) eventually tipped the scales in Crouch’s favour.
What does the off-season look like?
With Lever out the door, the Crows’ off-season has already been very busy. They are playing hardball with Brisbane for Charlie Cameron and are reportedly looking into recruiting Bryce Gibbs for a second consecutive year.
As it stands, Adelaide holds two top 20 picks and may look to trade them for mature talent to support their premiership push.
2018 crystal ball:
Losing a Grand Final hurts. Adelaide will be desperate to avenge their disappointing Grand Final performance. Despite the loss of Lever and potentially Cameron, the Crows still have a list more than capable of competing for September honours.
Their premiership window is wide open and the breeze is coming through. The Crows will undoubtedly enter 2018 as the favourites to go one better.