The Team –
In – Mitch McGovern, Riley Knight, David Mackay
Out – Andy Otten, Tom Lynch, Charlie Cameron
One of the most disappointing losses in recent memory is probably the perfect way to sum up last Thursday Night. Adelaide should have won that game. The loss to Hawthorn by three points at the MCG cost the Crows a top four spot last year. The loss on Thursday night could have very similar repercussions.
Since the Round Six win over Richmond, Adelaide’s form has been far from impressive. They got smashed by North Melbourne in Hobart and then Melbourne back home at the Adelaide Oval. They then beat Brisbane, but did not play particularly well after a slow start, before they smashed Fremantle in the rain, which was probably the most impressive win of the last couple of months. Adelaide then were pretty ordinary against the Cats, scrapped an ugly win against St Kilda, before the Hawthorn loss. It has been the season of two halves to date.
Adelaide were simply not tough enough on Thursday night. Hawthorn just wanted the win more. The Hawks did not play much better than the Crows, but just were able to execute and play their game plan better than the opposition. Adelaide never clicked into gear and seemed to think the game was won before it was even played. Hawthorn pressured the Crows into errors in scenes reminiscent of the losses earlier in the year to North Melbourne, Melbourne and Geelong. When it is hot in the kitchen, Adelaide go missing. Is that something you can fix within a season? Is it a personnel issue? An attitude problem? For me, pressure and hardness is something you can control. The way you put your head over the ball, take a strong mark and tackle is not based around talent, it is based on effort. If Adelaide are to even make finals in 2017, there simply must be more consistent toughness. You cannot pick and choose when you do it.
Three changes this week, two of them forced. It does give the team a bit of a shake up though, despite the fact all three of these players will be missed and are vital components of the game plan we have seen rolled out so far this year. Out of the side go Charlie Cameron with wrist soreness, despite the injury report stating that this was no concern on Tuesday and Tom Lynch who is unwell. Andy Otten is omitted, which after a couple of quiet weeks is probably the right call. He looks in need of a spell. In come Mitch McGovern after two solid games in the SANFL, David Mackay who was good without being great in his short stint out of the side and Riley Knight who in hindsight probably should have played over Jono Beech last week as he provides vital run through the middle and up forward.
The match up on former Crow, now Blue Matthew Wright will be interesting if Luke Brown is not 100% fit. He played injured a bit last year and was half the player. I hope he is right to go. Who fills Tom Lynch’s spot is also an important question. Jono Beech probably only keeps his place this week given Lynch’s absence, but has a chance to prove himself again. The Tom Lynch illness sounds like it could be a worry. Viral meningitis may be a few weeks on the sidelines. Time will tell.
Carlton have shown plenty in season 2017. They could have quite easily beaten Richmond last week if they had done just one or two things better. They have also knocked off the Giants, Gold Coast in Queensland and Sydney this year. They are on the rise. Bryce Gibbs has had a particularly good season. Whether he ends up at Adelaide next season remains to be seen, but the Crows could do a lot worse. Meanwhile, if every player played like Kade Simpson does, you would not lose too many games of football. He has been huge this year. The same could also be said of Sam Docherty. The Blues play a very defensive style of game and this has troubled Adelaide in the past. There will be no easy goals on Saturday afternoon if Carlton get it right.
I still do not agree with the assertion that Scott Thompson would add enough to this side to warrent a recall. He is a back up for injury unfortunately for him at this stage. He has been huge for the club over the journey, but you must look forward. Matt Crouch and Scott Thompson play essentially the same role. Crouch has his name written all over it right now. There were times last year where that combination just did not work. Yes, Thompson has a bigger body, but I do not think he is the difference between winning and losing.
Adelaide have to try something completely different with Rory Sloane this week. Throw him up forward, disrupt the plans Carlton have to match up on Adelaide’s defence. Move Sloane around the ground. Enough of the ‘he is working through it’ business. It has been six weeks and whatever he is trying to do now is simply not working. Try something new.
In the SANFL last weekend, Adelaide played quite well, particularly in the first half. Scott Thompson was clearly best on ground. He was on the end of quite a few unfair sledges from the Bulldogs crowd, but took it in his stride, steering into the skid, which was all class given what a frustrating year it must be for him. Kyle Cheney was solid, while Mitch McGovern did not have as much influence as the previous game, but did do some off the ball defensive plays that were to be admired. Paul Seedsman is almost ready to slot back in at AFL level, while Alex Keath is going from strength to strength in his return to the backlines after a few weeks up forward. Adelaide take on a rejuvenated Sturt side this week at Peter Motley Oval. This will be a tough task given Adelaide’s lack of key players on the park this weekend. Yet again too, another SANFL game featuring AFL listed players being played at the same time as the senior AFL side. Farcical. Just farcical.
If Adelaide lose to Carlton on Saturday afternoon, a top four finish starts to become a difficult prospect given the tough run home the Crows face. Carlton have taken it right up to Adelaide in the last two encounters between these clubs at the MCG and I expect it will be no different on Saturday. I am tipping the Blues in a heartbreaker. Adelaide are terribly out of form and without some key personnel for this clash, I just cannot see a big enough of a response being provided based on recent history. It looms as a season shaper either way.
Tip – Carlton by 2 points
Weather – Sunny. 14.
Game Info –
Carlton v Adelaide
Saturday July 1 – 2.10pm (local time) MCG
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.