In – Rory Sloane, Andy Otten
Out – Brodie Smith, Mitch McGovern
There may never be a better opportunity for the Adelaide Football Club to win a flag than the opportunity that they currently have before them. The ladder does not lie. Adelaide have been the best team to date in 2017. They are hosting a Preliminary Final at the Adelaide Oval, in front of the sell out crowd and they are well rested. If Adelaide win, the season is an automatic success. If they lose, the jury will remain out as to how good a year it has been. That is the difference between a win or loss this week.
Mitch McGovern misses with a very, very poorly timed hamstring. That is damn, damn annoying. McGovern, while not a big possession accumulator does things that no other Adelaide player can do. He is the best contested mark in the squad and he will be sorely missed. The good thing though is that Adelaide have shown time and again this year that they do have the depth to replace injured players.
Having said that the inclusion of Andy Otten this week is the wrong choice for mine. Pressure is what won Richmond the Qualifying Final against the Cats and pressure is not one of Otten’s stronger points. He will be solid in the air though, which I imagine is the theory Adelaide have gone with at the sacrifice of a bit of the pressure stuff. Wayne Milera would have been my choice. This game is all about pressure. Pressure. It just cannot be understimated.
The start will impact this game hugely. If Geelong do what they did last week and get the fast start, it will settle any nerves that they may have, force Adelaide into playing Geelong’s style of play and restrict the influence of the crowd. On the other hand, if Adelaide are to start well, the crowd will be up and about and the game will be being played on Adelaide’s terms, much like it was when the two teams last clashed. The start is massive.
Geelong will tag and they will tag more than just Rory Sloane. The loss of Brodie Smith means Rory Laird will receive a stack of attention. How he deals with it will be fascinating. Sloane no doubt will be jumping out of his skin in this one having missed the Qualifying Final with appendicitis. Does that help or hinder shaking a tag? If it hinders, Sloane must be thrown forward. There is no reason Sloane could not do what Dangerfield did last week and kick a bag of goals. Particularly with the lack of Mitch McGovern.
The Cats get Tom Lonergan back and I do not think Adelaide will stoop as low as offering him a sausage roll after the match. Nakia Cockatoo has been named and is a proven match winner. The fact that he is playing is a worry for the Crows. He is a tricky match up, particularly with Daniel Menzel and Steven Motlop also in the side. Mitch Duncan also cannot be underestimated, while Tom Hawkins’ year has been sub-par, but not someone you can take lightly either.
Adelaide are the better team across the park. Geelong have some quality top end talent, but it drops off a bit after that. Adelaide meanwhile have not as much top end talent, but a more even spread across the twenty-two. Stopping the influence of Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood is vital. Selwood has been clearly hampered by his sore foot across the finals, but he does not need much of the ball to do damage. In the last meeting between these sides a few weeks ago, Riley Knight did a tagging role on Selwood and the rest of the side pressured the living daylights out of Dangerfield. This has to be repeated on Friday night. It just has to be.
The weather will play no factor. It will be a brilliant night for football with little wind and no rain forecast.
To the result and who would know? Preliminary Finals are just different games and maybe that is a good thing. Geelong have caused Adelaide major issues in recent times and you would not want those issues to return on Friday night. Adelaide have to bring pressure. Half the battle will be won if they can do that. However, there is the unknown element of the lack of football Adelaide have played in recent times and the ability to restrict the influence of Patrick Dangerfield. Geelong have been more consistent when playing Adelaide across the last few years and I am tipping them. Just.
Geelong by 11 points.
Game Info –
Adelaide v Geelong
Friday September 22 – 7.20pm (local time) Adelaide Oval
Mostly Sunny. 29.
The Crow Call will be published every Thursday during the AFL Season. Join in the conversation with me on all things Crows on Twitter @liamthompson1.