In a truncated and unique 2020 season, Adelaide has an opportunity. Whether or not this year’s AFL season has ‘an asterisk’ or not, it was always going to be a hard fought year for the Crows. After the departure of Don Pyke followed by several older out-of-form players at the end of last year, the club appointed Matthew Nicks.
Nicks impressed with his rhetoric early. He appeared to be a no-nonsense coach who was capable of building strong relationships with the players. However, he has arguably shown a weakness already: selection.
After a fairly solid Round 1 performance against a team in a similar position, four changes were made. Stengle is suspended, but Frampton, Gibbs and Davis all made way. Assuming Crocker, billed and tested as a small forward, was the replacement for Stengle, then Keays, McHenry and Doedee were the players favoured in Round 2.
Whilst it’s possible that the result of the showdown was a lay-down misere, the inclusions certainly did nothing to strengthen the side. Doedee is returning from a year out of the game and will obviously take some time. Also, matchups were surely a consideration, but it’s possible to overthink them.
Despite the baseless, clickbait rubbish that is generally churned out by the gamut of AFL Media about Adelaide, the one reasonable criticism levelled at them by the more intelligent commentators and their own fans is that they play without heart.
That concept scares modern AFL coaching staff because its immeasurable and intangible. Yet, those watching a game are never unclear about its presence. It’s plain to see whether a team believes in the cause or not.
In that way, not selecting Frampton was a missed opportunity. After a dust up with Hartigan at training, Billy showed he’s up for the fight. He grew up hating Port Adelaide, and he used to play for them. Not everything is about form and matchups. Especially in a season like this, where expectation is low and everything has been disrupted. Now is the time to throw the magnets around and experiment.
To that end, now is also not the time to play first year draft picks simply because they’re there. Especially when there are so many 2-4 year players sitting on the bench with no SANFL to play. These are players that as a club Adelaide has invested significant time and money into for nothing.
Of course, if you’re at the top of the table and pushing for a flag, too bad. Those guys can just sit. But now is the time to play them. Whether or not they’ve given the best effort at training or not. Because if not now, when? Granted, Nicks wasn’t at the helm when they were drafted. But to have an opportunity like this to properly assess the whole list only to ignore those 2-4 year players is to admit the club got the draft picks wrong.
Gallucci, Himmelberg, Butts, Davis, Hamill, McAdam, McPherson, Poholke and Scholl must all be picked over first year players when spots are available. Because to draft someone and never give them a proper run at AFL level means one of two things. Either you’re winning flags every year they’re in the system, or you picked wrong. But if you give each of those players five games this year to prove what they can do at the level, you may just unearth something. Something that would never be found at training or in the SANFL. And if you don’t, then your trade period looks a lot clearer. And as for the first year players drafted in 2019, they’ll still be there in 2021. A year of scratch matches won’t kill them. 2020 is an expendable season for the Adelaide Crows, and those don’t come around all that often. So it must recognise the opportunity it has and get weird at the selection table.