Adelaide played finals football in five of the past seven seasons, but a
panel of Age experts predicts an end to their run. Emma Quayle reports on the
Crows' chances for 2004.
There are similarities to be drawn between the Crows and ER. The television
drama played out its best scripts late last decade and, with the departure of at
least one big name, has had its staying power queried at the start of almost
each new season since.
Still, it has managed to recruit enough established talent and promote enough
long-serving talent to more prominent roles to keep chugging along nicely in
Similarly, the Crows were at their most must-see several years ago but have
produced a quality product ever since, not garnering any awards but always
hovering in contention.
To write Adelaide off in 2004 is, therefore, risky business. The Crows have
played finals football in five of the past seven seasons.
They did not drop out of the eight last year, climbed to No. 2 at one point,
and could have finished top. Mark Bickley is a loss, but the only big one, and
Adelaide's draw looks accommodating enough - seven of its last 10 games are at
Should it all fall to star power, the Crows are well cast. Their best players
are among the competition's most damaging.
Mark Ricciuto and Andrew McLeod are the sort of players you like to build
teams around, and the likes of Ben Hart, Nigel Smart, Tyson Edwards, Simon
Goodwin, Tyson Stenglein and Brett Burton have done that very well. Then there
is Wayne Carey.
Adelaide's hopes lie again in its midfield, which is not such a bad thing.
The credentials of ruckman Matthew Clarke and Rhett Biglands need no
explanation; on paper, they, Ricciuto, McLeod, Edwards and co. look second only
to the Brisbane Lions, and possibly West Coast.
They are good for goals, too, and will need to be. Defensively, Adelaide
looks OK. Hart and Smart are an experienced, very capable pair that the honest
Nathan Bassett and Jason Torney sit well alongside.
The Crows have blooded few self-developed youngsters in the past few years
but Ken McGregor is one of them, and is homing in on 100 games. He is the sort
of nofuss type the club will want to start proving himself more prepared for
life after Smart and Hart.
Up forward, things get shakier.
The Carey Experiment was not as successful as was hoped, and Ronnie Burns was
not one to rave about, either. Adelaide's leading goalkicker last year was
Graham Johncock and he only kicked 30 (the lowest at any club).
Mark Stevens' right knee remains dodgy and without him the Crows look low on
marking targets. In a perfect world anything Carey does this year will be icing,
not the cake. Johncock should develop even more, Burns and Scott Welsh will
have to up their goal tallies and Ian Perrie must impose himself even further.
Same for Scott Stevens.
Should Adelaide's best players play well again this year, expect them to be
thereabouts. Should their older players fall in a heap, prepare for possible
gore. Recent history (read: Carlton) shows that when clubs, hold too long to
youth-resistance a tumble can become more of a free-fall.
QUAYLE'S BEST 22
B: Torney Bassett Hart
HB: Smart McGregor Edwards
C: Massie Stenglein Burton
HF: Goodwin Mark Stevens Johncock
F: Carey Perrie Welsh
Foll: Clarke, Ricciuto, McLeod
Inter: Biglands, Bode, Burns, Reilly
Arrivals: Ben Hudson (draft), Joshua Krueger (draft), Hayden Skipworth
(rookie list), Scott Stevens (traded, Sydney), Fergus Watts (draft).
Departures: Mark Bickley (retired), Andrew Crowell, Ben Marsh, Ben Nelson,
Daniel Schell, Matthew
AT THE CROSSROADS
Mark Stevens is everything Adelaide needs in its forward line - a
hard-working, marking goalkicker. On ability, he is not even approaching the
crossroads. What takes him there is the fact that he is a) such a key and b) so
troubled by his right knee.
Scott Welsh has been similarly unlucky in the past two years, playing 13
games in 2002 and just 10 last season, with thumb, groin, back and ankle
problems. On his day, Welsh can kick a bag. The Crows would like him to kick
several of them.
Michael Doughty looked the goods in 2002, playing all 25 games and with some
real grunt. But last season he slipped, managing just six games and filling only
bit parts. The Adelaide midfield is no easier to break in to than it was this
time last year. But having done it before, Doughty must find the confidence to
ON THE RISE
Brent Reilly knows what it means to wait. A broken collarbone wiped out the
middle of his second season, but the coaches thought enough to bring the
well-balanced wingman back for the second showdown and the first final. Reilly
has the grounding and talent to lodge himself in the senior side quickly this
Trent Hentschel was known as "Roo Boy" growing up in Darwin and could put
his high-leaping game to good use at either end of the ground. That the
21-year-old was an emergency six times in the last half of last year suggests he
will get the chance.
Don't expect to see Fergus Watts too soon. But the courageous forward is
Adelaide's biggest investment in the national draft since it picked Reilly at
No. 12 in 2001, and could be introduced late-season.
Address: 105 West Lakes
Boulevard, West Lakes, SA 5021
Captain: Mark Ricciuto
Coach: Gary Ayres
Chairman: Bill Sanders
CEO: Steven Trigg
• THE COACH
After falling short last year, Gary Ayres could have gone the cleanout.
Instead, he continues to place faith in the core of senior players, which is
no wonder, because they continue to play good footy. Ayres is often criticised
for a supposed lack of tactical nous, but the Crows are the sort of "let's-go"
side that probably doesn't have to pull too many rabbits from hats.
• STATS HIGHLIGHTS
• Matthew Clarke and Rhett Biglands got the Crows rolling well last year.
Adelaide led the league on effective hit-outs, with an average of 20 per game,
and made good use of them, clearing the ball from ball-ups 15 times each week.
Surprisingly, they ranked last for centre bounce clearances, with just 11 per
• The Crows are not big bouncers, taking an average of eight per game last
year, compared with the Kangaroos' 19. Perhaps as a consequence they also ranked
lowest for shepherds, at six per game.
Source: Prowess Stats
DRAW FOR 2004
RD 1 v Kangaroos, MCG, Sun, Mar 27
RD 2 v Bris Lions, AS, Sat, Apr 3
RD 3 v Fremantle, Subiaco, Sun,April 11
RD 4 v St Kilda, AS, Sat, April 17 (n)
RD 5 v Richmond, TD, Fri, April 23 (n)
RD 6 v Geelong, SS, Sun, May 2
RD 7 v Port Adel, AS, Sat, May 8 (n)
RD 8 v Essendon, AS, Fri, May 14 (n)
RD 9 v Collingwood,TD, Fri, May 21 (n)
RD 10 v Hawthorn, MCG, Sat, May 29
RD 11 v Carlton, AS, Sat, June 5
RD 12 v West Coast, Subiaco, Sat, June 12 (n)
RD 13 v W Bulldogs,AS, Sun, June 20
RD 14 v Melbourne, AS, Sun, July 4
RD 15 v Sydney, SCG, Sat, July 10 (n)
RD 16 v Fremantle,AS, Sat, July 17 (n)
RD 17 v Bris Lions, Gabba, Sat, July 24 (n)
RD 18 v Kangaroos,AS, Fri, July 30 (n)
RD 19 v St Kilda, YP, Sat, August 7
RD 20 v Richmond,AS, Sun,August 15
RD 21 v Geelong, AS, Sat, August 21
RD 22 v Port Adel,AS, Sun,August 29
TOP 10, 2003 BEST AND FAIREST
1. Mark Ricciuto 159
2. Tyson Edwards 137
3. Andrew McLeod 117
4. Mark Bickley 116
5. Graham Johncock 106
6. Brett Burton 104
7. Ken McGregor 95
8. Wayne Carey 92,
Tyson Stenglein 92
10. Matthew Clarke 86
? OUR EXPERTS PREDICT
Dermott Brereton 10th
Rohan Connolly 11th
Jake Niall 10th
Stephen Rielly 10th
Robert Walls 10th
Tim Watson 10th
Caroline Wilson 11th
? THE STORY SO FAR
16th Western Bulldogs