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'Weirdo' Walsh working on Crows masterpiece


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Phil Walsh might not know much about art but he knows what he likes.

He wants his Crows charges to focus on tackling, team defence and rectifying their errant foot-skills when they take on the Lions in Brisbane on Saturday.

And the AFL’s resident philosopher is adamant that, like the Dutch post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh, the Crows must suffer to achieve greatness.

“I’ll sound again like a bit like a weirdo,” he told reporters in Adelaide today, “but great art comes from a level of frustration.”

He recalled visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, gazing upon the still-life sunflowers and thinking: “There’s a man with great frustration.”

“For a bogan from Hamilton like myself, I could actually see beauty in that frustration,” he mused today, suggesting the Crows’ stuttering season, poised on the cusp of the 8 with six wins and five losses, could yet turn sunflower-gold.

“So although our fans are frustrated, and we’re frustrated, we like to think there’s some masterpieces still to be painted this year,” he said.

The Adelaide coach is asking his players to lend him their ears this week as he seeks to rectify what he sees as a poor tackling technique.

Adelaide laid 56 tackles to Hawthorn’s 75 in last Thursday night’s loss, but it was not the number but the method that rankles with Walsh. He says over the competition, the “standard of tackling and how it’s done is probably the highest it’s been in my time in footy”, but it’s a standard to which he believes the Crows still don’t measure up.

“The thing that really showed us up (against the Hawks) was our tackling (against) their tackling, their method,” he said.

“We’ve spoken about it…we’re working hard to get the technique right. I’m telling our players the way to tackle, and I’m encouraging them to tackle that way.”

Beyond that, he says, “we want to defend better (and) we want to kick better”.

He’ll be buoyed by the likely inclusion of skipper Taylor Walker, who was subbed out of last week’s game with a corked hip.

“We’ve still got the check on that today, but we’re confident he’ll come up,” Walsh said.

“He hasn’t done a lot of training during the week (but) we’re confident he’ll play…we’ll find out more today.”

Young gun Brad Crouch is also a possible inclusion after an injury scare last week, with pain in his troublesome foot.

“We had concerns so we went and got scans (and) it’s all sound,” said Walsh.

“There was just a little bit of discomfort, which can happen when you’ve been wearing a moon boot and had a screw in your foot…We think he’s fine from a structural point of view.

“He trained strongly yesterday so he’ll come under strong consideration; it’s just a question of how much football he’s played.”

Young defender Jake Lever is likely to return from an ankle injury through the SANFL, with Walsh declaring he was “very happy with (replacement) Kyle Hartigan’s game” last week.

He declared anyone selected would be considered fully fit.

“You run out on the ground, you’re 100 per cent — that’s how it works,” he said.

“In reality through, everybody’s carrying something; we’re round 11…so no-one’s 100 per cent. Some players you can play at 80 per cent, others you can’t.”

Walsh said despite the lowly Lions languishing in 17th spot, he was “expecting a fierce contest”.

“Every time you get on a plane, every time you travel, you’re vulnerable,” he said.

“We need to be on edge.

“All our fans, I can assure you we’ve prepared well for this game.”

He repeated his well-worn analogy that the season was a long boxing match: “We’re 11 rounds in, we’re slightly ahead on points, these next rounds are very important.”

In boxing, then — as in art — it takes a fair bit of pain to succeed.

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