When the dust settles on season 2015, those who have paid attention would have witnessed a special transformation.
Only eight weeks ago, the Adelaide Football Club began dealing with the loss of their most senior coaching figure Phil Walsh. Since that time, the Crows have won seven of a possible eight games and catapulted themselves into an impending finals series.
Few would have foreseen the remarkable resilience and character this playing group has demonstrated since the awful tragedy of the late Phil Walsh’s passing. Few would have imagined the remarkable turnaround in self-belief and form.
The Crows are flying high and have obliterated opponents both superior and inferior over the past month. The manner in which the victories against finals bound West Coast and Richmond came in particular, has many experts and pundits suggesting for the first time in many years, a genuine challenger to the flag exists outside the coveted top four.
Adelaide’s credentials are difficult to ignore; a playing list that boasts more elite talent than any list in the competition bar reigning premiers Hawthorn, generates more kicks, inside 50s, marks inside 50 and goal assists than anyone bar the Hawks, the mantle of being the competition’s best clearance team and transition team from defence to attack, the third best attacking outfit and a defensive unit who are playing as if they have done so for a decade together, despite being one of the least experienced going around.
Put quite simply, this is an immaculate recipe for success, whether it comes in the not so distant future or much sooner.
Looking at the areas needing improvement, Adelaide is the second-worst disposal team in the competition ahead of only the injury-riddled Suns. Statistically, even a mere 5% improvement on their effective disposal efficiency of 70.3% would lift them to fifth in the AFL in this category, and would certainly be a nightmare for the rest of the competition given Adelaide’s capacity to get the ball inside 50, and move the ball from defence to attack better than anyone else.
Adelaide plays a highly contested brand of football, which is designed specifically for finals footy. The Crows ability to generate scores both from defence and stoppages, and lock the ball inside their own half with the coveted Phil Walsh forward press will become even more prevalent as the major round gets under way.
When Walsh arrived at the club he quickly pointed out defence as the area needing improvement if the Crows were to be a challenger. Over the past month, Adelaide has kept its opponents to a measly 56 points per game on average; scary good. The next best team hasn’t come close to this level of miserliness.
Considering the average games played of its defensive unit, their ability to shut down their opponents’ most heralded attacking options is worth much adulation. Inspired recruiting in the form of Jake Lever and standout development coming from the likes of Rory Laird and Luke Brown this season have transformed what was previously their Achilles’ heel into one of their strengths.
One thing is for certain, the impact Phil Walsh has had on this playing group is undeniable. The seeds he so eloquently planted early on in his tenure are now beginning to bear fruit and that fruit is rapidly beginning to ripen.
Any future success will be attributed to the great man and the standards he set about enforcing on a young playing group craving direction and discipline. Those standards have now become the benchmark for the club, at all levels. When Adelaide win their next premiership you can be sure there will a special mention reserved for the man responsible for that glory more so than any other; such is the legacy Walsh left behind.
With a host of marquee names and rising stars re-signed to the club, the future looks incredibly bright for a young exuberant playing group still coming to terms with the loss of their great leader. One more name is required on the dotted line if this group is to seriously set their sights on a premiership tilt in years to come.