AFL 3 years ago

Suns Melt Under Crows Late Avalanche

  • Suns Melt Under Crows Late Avalanche
  • Suns Melt Under Crows Late Avalanche
  • Suns Melt Under Crows Late Avalanche
  • Suns Melt Under Crows Late Avalanche
  • Suns Melt Under Crows Late Avalanche
  • Suns Melt Under Crows Late Avalanche
ADELAIDE       4.1   9.5   11.10  19.11  (125) 
GOLD COAST   4.1   7.4   10.7    12.8    (80)

A far cry from all the drama and emotion of Showdown 39, Adelaide had one simple plan this week; solidify its top 8 position ahead of a gruelling fortnight which is sure to test their finals credentials.

A trip to Sydney to face the might of the top 4 Swans awaits, before hosting rampant Richmond at the Oval. The Crows' immediate concern however, was dealing with a resurgent Gold Coast side and their red-hot captain Gary Ablett jnr.

Fortunately for Adelaide, the little master suffered a premature end to his afternoon; a meniscus injury ending his day, and more than likely his season. 

Adelaide was dealt its own misfortune before the first ball was bounced, with reigning Club Champion and All Australian CHB Daniel Talia a late withdrawal due to a illness.

It was clear both sides would rue the absence of these superstars as the game went on. Adelaide struggled to contain twin towers Tom Lynch and Charlie Dixon with the pairing of Talia's replacement Sam Shaw and Kyle Hartigan. While the Suns found the going tough in the clinches without Ablett leading the charge.

Shaw was evidently well out of his size department against Lynch early, conceding three goals to half-time while Hartigan was being monstered early on in his own duel with Dixon.

Credit must be given to the undermanned Adelaide defence for their job in the second half however, stemming the influence of the Suns' tall timber and providing ample rebound in the process. 

There was no greater exponent of this rebounding flair than young Jake Lever, who continues to grow in stature with each passing week. His intercept marking and poise under immense pressure was a highlight during an otherwise mistake-riddled afternoon. Lever finished with 24 disposals and 10 marks in a performance befitting a 200 gamer. His performance reminded me of club legend Ben Hart in his prime; a comparison Lever would be loathe to accept given his modest nature.

Harley Bennell bounced back from his club-imposed suspension, playing the lone hand in the Suns' midfield with a 38 possession masterclass in the absence of his skipper. Too much was left to too few though for the Coasters, and Adelaide's midfield took advantage and appropriately ran riot.

The likes of Dangerfield, Thompson, Laird and Douglas were industrious throughout the contest, served brilliantly by the dominance of Sam Jacobs, who gave young Zac Smith a football lesson in the ruck.

It took until the final quarter for the floodgates to spring open; an eight goal-to-two avalanche sealing the Crows' 45 point victory and eventually 7th position on the AFL ladder.

When the game was in the balance it was the gut running of Douglas, the class of Lever, Laird, Dangerfield and Thompson, the magic of Cameron and Betts and the spirit of a team still coming to grips with the loss of their senior coach, which ultimately tipped the scales in Adelaide's favour.

The win offered signs of future prosperity for the Crows; younger heads prevailed in the heat of battle with Riley Knight and Lever excelling, and the rapidly improving Charlie Cameron putting on a clinic for the pro-Adelaide crowd. Cameron was a thorn in the Suns' side all afternoon, and capped off his mercurial display with a four goal haul. 

Charlie is quickly capitalising on the tutelage of Eddie Betts, and certainly seems to be benefiting from the added confidence his mentoring has instilled. The pair added a lazy seven goals to Adelaide's tally yesterday, a blossoming petite partnership that is sure to enthral the  masses for many years to come. The dynamic duo have kicked 61 goals between them in 2015 - the master Betts with 41 and the apprentice Cameron with 20 of his own. 

With strong on-ball performances from Lyons, Matt Crouch, Ellis-Yolmen, Kerridge and Grigg in the reserves, Adelaide's selection committee will surely have their work cut out for them this week.

Atkins, Wright, Shaw and Mackay are the likely omissions, as the Crows edge closer to full strength at the business end of the season. Talia should return at Shaw's expense, while Crouch was extremely unlucky to lose his spot and should earn a recall against the Swans.

Jarryd Lyons would be forgiven for seeking opportunities elsewhere next year and beyond; the clearance specialist has been held out of the senior side all season by the likes of Wright, and more recently Brodie Martin and Riley Knight.

Lyons will surely take out Adelaide's SANFL club champion award and is likely to attract plenty of interest from Victorian clubs, in particular Melbourne, who tried to lure him home in 2013 when Bernie Vince crossed the border to join the Dees.

I sincerely hope we do not lose his talents, least not to retain the likes of a Martin, Wright or Mackay in his place. All three stand at the crossroads of their careers and may find themselves being offered up as trade bait, or worse come October. 

Tough calls need to be made in the off-season if the club is to stay true to the Walsh principles of elitism; this practice makes no exceptions for mediocrity. If the club is to challenge in coming years, it will only do so via the continued improvement of its underbelly - a greater investment in Ellis-Yolmen, Grigg, Kerridge, Knight, Lyons and both Crouch Brothers will reap huge dividends for Adelaide in the long run.

The aforementioned septet will be the butter on the next Crows Premiership toast. Each of the seven offer Adelaide a unique skill set; all are quite capable of succeeding messrs Van Berlo, Mackay, Wright, Martin and, to a lesser extent Scott Thompson, when the ageing legend finally decides his battered body has had enough.

If Thompson's 2015 form is any indication, we may not yet see his swansong for some time. Success is only around the corner at West Lakes, while champions of Thompson's calibre don't often come around.

A potential move to half-forward in the twighlight of his career may prove a masterstroke, given he made the position his own early on in his career. We have seen current ageing champion midfielders follow this trend in recent years; Paul Chapman, Adam Cooney and Brent Harvey are just a few examples.

With or without Thompson, Adelaide's engine room looks to be in very safe hands going forward.
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