AFL analyst and former North Melbourne premiership player David King this week deemed the Crows’ freewheeling style among the most attractive in the league to watch – but flawed, at least in execution, as it led to frequent turnovers that quality opponents would exploit.
Pyke conceded his side’s defensive pressure was “a work in progress” that was shown up in Saturday’s loss to the Western Bulldogs on the fast deck of Etihad Stadium.
“Clearly on the weekend we conceded a number of inside-50s and a number of those came from areas we think we can rectify,” he said.
But he denied his forward line had struggled to lock the ball into its attacking half, instead piling the pressure on a listless midfield ahead of a crucial clash with the resurgent Geelong Cats – and their new marquee player Patrick Dangerfield, Adelaide’s reigning club champion.
“The reality with the Bulldogs is we lost it at the source, we lost it at the contest,” said Pyke, insisting the task for Friday night was to “make sure we bring a real energy and hunt around the contest so we win our share”.
That is easier said than done, with Geelong’s engine room boasting top-line grunt in the form of Dangerfield and captain Joel Selwood, as well as attacking pace and flair.
“We’re mindful they’ve got some quality in there [but] we’ve played sides that had quality midfields throughout the year – Western Bulldogs on the weekend, Hawthorn before that, Sydney – so we’ve experienced that and we’ll be backing ourselves in,” Pyke said.
“They’ve got strengths across each line and some depth in there, but we like to think we’ve got that as well.
“I’ve always said we’re continuing to work on our gameplan and continuing to improve and that’s our aim, and we’ve got clear areas we want to improve in.”
How quickly the work in progress can be fulfilled is unclear, but King gave Adelaide a month to rectify its negative inside-50 differential before he would write them off as a contender. But Pyke would not be drawn on the future.
“Where they take us I don’t know, I’m not into predictions and forecasts,” he said.
“What I know is when we play the way we want to play we can play some powerful footy and really positive footy, but there’s areas we can work at.”
The Crows enter the game with clarification from the AFL umpiring department about contentious calls in the 15-point loss to the Bulldogs, with Pyke appearing to retreat from his post-match frustration about decisions on holding the ball and ducking the head.
“I had a chat with the umpires’ advisor today … and we move on,” he said.
“It’s fair to say on reflection it was a number of free kicks which were our doing. And we have got to improve in those areas … but it certainly wasn’t a reason we lost a game of footy.
“We just need to know so we can coach the players accordingly.”
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge yesterday hit out at Adelaide’s complaints about the umpiring of their AFL match, suggesting the Crows had been disrespectful to how hard his players attacked the ball.
“I’m always sensitive to the effect it has on community football … any open message in the public domain and doubt around the integrity of an umpire’s performance for me is disgusting,” Beveridge said.
The other talking point from the weekend was the form of captain Taylor Walker, who laboured hard for little return.
But Pyke insists he won’t be rested and has “recovered” from a foot injury that hampered his early season preparation.
“He’s ready to go,” he said.
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