Adelaide Crows fans have had a rough trot the past few seasons. Ever since the 2017 Grand Final there has not been a lot to crow about if you’re a fan of the pride of South Australia. But, with a brand new season brings hope. And yes it is the hope that kills you, but that's what being a sports fan is all about, right?
With that motivational speech out the way, let's have a look at how Adelaide is shaping up ahead of the 2023 season.
Recap of last season
Last season was a bit of a mixed bag for the Crows. It started off with a lot of promise. Four of their first six games were settled by less than a goal (winning two and losing two) and they picked up a huge win over the Tigers at home. A five-game losing streak followed that promising start and they never really recovered from it.
Finals were never really on the agenda, however, and eight wins that resulted in a finish in 14th spot on the ladder was seen as just about par for Matthew Nicks’ men.
How can they improve
The Crows have shown steady improvement under Matthew Nicks, going from 18th in 2020 and 15th in 2021 to 14th last season. The rebuild he has been tasked with is working, slowly, but it is working nonetheless.
There has been a lot of focus on youth and two big moves have emphasised that for the Crows. The first was a trade period move for Gold Coast forward Izak Rankine and the second was the huge call to make 25-year-old Jordan Dawson the club’s ninth AFL captain.
If Rankine can come in and compliment the host of other youngsters who have improved steadily under Nicks, we might see a new era at West Lakes. Having pinch-hitting veterans like Rory Sloane and Taylor Walker won't hurt either.
Out - Luke Brown (retired), Ben Davis (delisted), Billy Frampton (trade, Collingwood), James Rowe (delisted), Brett Turner (delisted)
In - Hugh Bond (No.50 draft pick), Tyler Brown (pre-season supplemental selection period), Billy Dowling (No.43 draft pick), Mark Keane (pre-season supplemental selection period), Max Michalanney (No.17 draft pick, father-son), Izak Rankine (trade, Gold Coast)
Potentially the biggest strength the Crows have this year is high-performance manager Darren Burgess, now in his second year at the club. Yes, he is world-renowned after stints at English Premier League clubs Arsenal and Liverpool, but the real x-factor Burgess brings is his history of helping clubs climb up the ladder after two seasons.
He was heavily credited for helping Melbourne to its drought-breaking premiership in 2021 in his second year at the club and took crosstown rivals Port Adelaide to the top of the table in 2007, once again in his second year at the club. Can he do the same for Adelaide?
Reliance on youth. With the second-youngest squad in the league, with an average age of just 23.7, the Crows will be vulnerable to inconsistency, as is the case with most youthful squads, not just in AFL, but sports in general.
They only have six players who have played more than 100 AFL matches and just seven with finals experience. 32 of the Crow's 38 senior-listed players have played less than 50 AFL games.
This could be the biggest hurdle Mathew Nicks’ side has to clear if they are to be competitive this year.
Rankine made the move to Adelaide during last year's trade period. The 23-year-old is coming off his best AFL season to date in 2022. Playing for Gold Coast last year, he kicked 29 goals and averaged 13 touches per game. He looks set to take the next step this season, and whether he does or not will have a large impact on whether the Crows can sneak into the top eight this season.
The Crows are expected to continue making steady improvement in their rebuilding process and although they should pick up more wins than they did last season, are likely to spend another year in the AFL finals wilderness. Close, but no cigar as far as finals go. For the Crows to aim for 10-plus wins in 2022 will be seen as a successful measure for the club.
Ladder Position: 9th
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