ADELAIDE 4.4 11.4 14.7 18.10 (118)
RICHMOND 4.2 9.4 10.9 12.10 (82)
Six long months; for the players, for the coaches, for the entire football club and for the fans who suffered the indignity of attending the 2017 AFL Grand Final, and those who suffered equally as much anguish watching back home.
After a summer of pain and lament, Thursday night was an opportunity to at long last put to bed the demons and nightmares of that fabled wasted opportunity on the biggest stage possible.
There was fire in the eyes in the huddle, fire in the breath of captain Taylor Walker as he demanded his teammates crack-in, then crack-in again, then crack-in more. One did not need qualifications as a lip reader or body language expert to recognise just how ready the Adelaide players were for this contest.
After Shane Edwards had silenced the crowd with a clever left-foot dribbled goal from the pocket early on, Josh Jenkins sprang into action and set about burying his own personal demons of a sub-par Grand Final performance; giving the All Australian captain Alex Rance a cold bath in the process.
Jenkins looked ominous every time the ball came inside 50m, out-muscling and out-marking the game’s best defender, and if not for inaccuracy, he could have kicked three goals in the opening 10 minutes, or four for the quarter. He would finish the quarter with seven disposals (three contested) and booted 2.2 – after managing seven disposals during the entirety of the Grand Final.
Jenkins’ teammates made sure to let Rance know just how poorly he was traveling – unleashing a physical and verbal barrage on the defensive linchpin at every opportunity, in an attempt to unsettle the usually cool, calm and collected champion. Rance would finish the opening quarter without a single disposal; such was the dominance Jenkins was having over him.
After a strong mark and superbly executed goal to hulking teenager Darcy Fogarty, both teams would trade blows to round out the high-scoring, frenetic opening quarter. Goals to Shai Bolton, another to Jenkins, a cheeky Bryce Gibbs running goal courtesy of his former teammate at the Blues Eddie Betts, and finally a Dusty Martin fine mark and conversion, the Crows went into the first break two points ahead.
Rory Laird picked up where he left off last week, and last year as an All Australian – mopping up Richmond forays forward with subliminal precision as he ended the opening quarter with a resounding 11 disposals at 91% efficiency.
The second quarter looked like being a disaster for the Crows, after both Rory Sloane and Matt Crouch succumbed to injury in the first four minutes; Sloane would eventually grit it out and return the fray, but Crouch was unable to do the same after suffering a game-ending hamstring injury, further exacerbating Adelaide’s extensive injury list.
Not even injury to key personnel could stop the Crows however, as they piled on three goals in the first five minutes of the quarter, two courtesy of rookie Lachlan Murphy and another to that man again, Josh Jenkins.
Richmond would find a way however, as the reigning premiers kicked four of the next five goals to close the gap to a solitary point, with Townsend and Martin booting majors either side of two Josh Caddy goals.
Taylor Walker ignited the Crows with two late goals and Jenkins added further torment to Rance’s day with his fourth, while Dusty once again found a way to keep his side in contention with his third goal to keep Richmond within 12 points at the main break, 11.4.70 to 9.4.58.
With spot fires breaking out all over the field and both teams’ raging discontent for each other, it was the Crows throwing their weight around more effectively, looking far more intimidating and smashing their opponents in the contested ball stakes. The Crows had an overwhelming amount of possession and used this dominance to assert an aerial presence over their opponents.
Dustin Martin was sensational in first half and clearly his side’s best player. He had 17 disposals with nine contested, six clearances and four inside 50s on top of his three goals. Martin had played a lone hand for the Tigers to that point, as many of Richmond’s stars were being towelled up – Rance, Riewoldt and Cotchin were all unable to assert any influence on the contest.
Conversely, the Crows had a number of even contributors for the half – Greenwood, Gibbs, Laird, Jacobs, Talia, Sloane, Ellis-Yolmen, Walker, Jenkins and standout young defender Tom Doedee all giving their opponents headaches.
Adelaide lost the contested possession count by 30 against Richmond in the Grand Final last season - its third-worst differential in any game all year. Clearly, they had made it their mission to reverse this performance, as they went into the half-time break leading the count by 19.
The third quarter would start in similar fashion for the Crows, as another key player had injury concerns; Daniel Talia, who had kept Jack Riewoldt goalless, hobbled off with a knee issue, much to the dismay of the Adelaide faithful watching on.
Josh Caddy would reel the margin back to a goal early in the third with his third goal of the game, before young Darcy Fogarty elated the home crowd with his second major, before Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Hugh Greenwood blew the margin back out to 23 points.
The Crows would hold onto their lead through sheer domination of the footy in the premiership quarter – using the ball with precision and pinpointing teammates all over the field, as the 82-38 count of marks clearly demonstrated. As the crucial third quarter came to a close, it was Adelaide with a 22 point lead and a steely resolve to not let this opportunity slip away.
Richmond were equally as determined not to lie down and accept their fate. The reigning premiers were noticeably hungrier and far more desperate to start the final quarter, with none more so than reigning Brownlow and Norm Smith Medallist Martin, who started the quarter with a flurry of goals to take his tally to five for the match – an equal career-high for the superstar.
Dusty had once again single-handedly reeled the Crows back, cutting the deficit back to nine points, but unfortunately, as had been the case for the entirety of the evening, he just didn’t have enough support around him.
As the Crows were looking for a spark and the crowd were growing restless; who better to answer the call than their fearless leaders in Taylor Walker and the hobbled Rory Sloane, with Sloane’s effort sending the home fans into frenzy as he split the middle from a set shot on a seemingly impossible angle.
Jenkins would add further misery to Rance’s night, and put the result beyond doubt with his fifth major only minutes later, before Walker put the icing on the cake for his side with his fourth to have the crowd celebrating early.
Rory Laird finished the contest with 42 disposals, and set an AFL record in the process; becoming the first player ever to record consecutive 40 disposal efforts to start a season. If his name wasn’t already being pencilled in again for consecutive All Australian honours, it won’t take long before a permanent marker is put to paper.
Laird has an even bigger responsibility this season with Brodie Smith recovering from his ACL injury but appears to be taking that responsibility on with aplomb. He will have more support as the growing Adelaide injury list begins to shorten, but for now he looks happy to carry the burden.
Bryce Gibbs was once again prominent for his new club, as he racked up 28 disposals with 20 of those contested, three marks with two contested, eight clearances, four tackles, seven inside 50s and kicked 1.2 while handing off another for a teammate. He has been worth every penny Adelaide paid to finally secure his services.
Hugh Greenwood (26 disposals with 19 contested, 8 clearances, 1.1) and Cam Ellis-Yolmen (28 disposals with 13 contested, eight marks, seven tackles, three clearances and a goal) each enjoyed their finest performance for the club in their short careers. Both have played a combined total of less than 40 games, but both look like taking their game to another level in 2018.
Tom Doedee is a name most football experts around the country are still having trouble pronouncing, but with the way he has started his Crows career they’re getting plenty of practice at it. The former junior basketballer is only relatively new to football, meaning his upside is enormous.
After being groomed as the replacement for another household name player who left the club under acrimonious circumstances, Doedee has been a defensive general, playing like a 10 year veteran and throwing caution to the wind while crashing into contests and regularly running back with the flight of the ball.
Doedee’s athleticism, hands in close and reading of the play, coupled with his fierce determination to never lose a contest explain why Geelong Falcons Recruitment Manager Mick Turner, and many of his peers across Victoria, had labelled him the best one-on-one defender in the TAC Cup competition.
In the pressure of a Grand Final rematch, the young tall amassed 25 disposals at 96% efficiency with 14 of those contested, 11 intercepts, 10 pressure acts, six marks, three rebound 50s, three inside 50s and a total of 327m gained.
If the Rising Star nomination isn’t awarded to him by the end of Round One, it would have taken an incredible individual performance in the remaining matches to rob him of the honour.
Doedee’s rap sheet after just two AFL games is incredible, as the following numbers speak for themselves:
Ranked 17th in the AFL - Total Handballs
Ranked 18th in the AFL - Total Effective Disposals
Ranked 13th in the AFL - Total Intercepts
Ranked 20th in the AFL - Handballs Per Game
Ranked 9th in the AFL - Effective Disposals % Per Game
Ranked 16th in the AFL - Intercepts Per Game
Ranked 5th among rising stars in Total Kicks
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Total Handballs
Ranked 2nd among rising stars in Total Disposals
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Total Marks
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Total Contested Possessions
Ranked 3rd among rising stars in Total Uncontested Possessions
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Total Effective Disposals
Ranked 6th among rising stars in Total Contested Marks
Ranked 3rd among rising stars in Total Rebound 50s
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Total One Percenters
Ranked 3rd among rising stars in Total Bounces
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Total Time On Ground %
Ranked 4th among rising stars in Total Metres Gained
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Total Intercepts
Ranked 6th among rising stars in Kicks Per Game
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Handballs Per Game
Ranked 2nd among rising stars in Disposals Per Game
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Marks Per Game
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Contested Possessions Per Game
Ranked 4th among rising stars in Uncontested Possessions Per Game
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Effective Disposals Per Game
Ranked 8th among rising stars in Contested Marks Per Game
Ranked 3rd among rising stars in Rebound 50s Per Game
Ranked 1st among rising stars in One Percenters Per Game
Ranked 5th among rising stars in Bounces Per Game
Ranked 1st among rising stars in Time On Ground % Per Game
Ranked 2nd among rising stars in Effective Disposals % Per Game
Ranked 5th among rising stars in Metres Gained Per Game
If there were ever any doubts as to his pedigree, young Doedee has already comprehensively put those to bed.
The Crows will again travel to Etihad for the second time in three weeks, as they face a St Kilda side desperate to hold themselves accountable for a shock loss to wooden-spoon favourites North Melbourne. The Saints were insipid on the Good Friday stage, and will no doubt roll their sleeves up and respond in emphatic fashion.
Adelaide will look to welcome back several of its injured personnel with star forward Tom Lynch and running-machine recruit Sam Gibson looking to force their way into the side, as will Alex Keath and Curtly Hampton as they prepare for their own fitness tests.
Spots will be hard to come by however, but may open up as the Crows had only one fit man on the bench for much of the second half of Thursday’s contest, with prolific onballer and All Australian Matt Crouch (hamstring) the biggest concern.
Daniel Talia played out the match in clear discomfort, as did Rory Sloane, but both played a huge role in the outstanding victory over the Tigers. David Mackay took no further part in the contest after being concussed by Josh Caddy, who has since been banned for one week for striking the Adelaide wingman.
Adelaide: Jenkins 5, Walker 4, Sloane 2, Murphy 2, Fogarty 2, Gibbs, Ellis-Yolmen, Greenwood
Richmond: Martin 5, Caddy 3, Edwards, Lambert, Bolton, Townsend
Adelaide: Laird, Jenkins, Gibbs, Sloane, Jacobs, Hartigan, Ellis-Yolmen
Richmond: Martin, Caddy, Cotchin, Nankervis, Edwards, Short
Adelaide: M.Crouch (hamstring), Mackay (concussion)
Umpires: Nicholls, Fleer, Mollison
Official crowd: 49,743 at the Adelaide Oval
Stats courtesy of footywire.com and AFL.com.au