After being banished to regain fitness after a lacklustre showing against Geelong, midfielder Brad Crouch returns for the Crows, who lost Paul Seedsman to a hamstring injury he suffered at training.
Crouch will add pace and grunt to the Adelaide engine room, but coach Don Pyke insists a renewed focus on defence has been the ingredient that stabilised the Crows’ season after successive losses in Rounds 7 and 8.
“The area we identified probably… around the time we played the Bulldogs and the Cats was we felt we were leaking too many inside 50s,” he told FoxFooty’s AFL360 last night.
“And the players and the coaches feel we made some positive strides in that area, and we were able to restrict some teams going into the bye.”
Pyke said the transformation has not involved “changing the way we defend”, merely improving the existing model.
He said a pre-season focus on clean, fast ball movement meant his squad “probably left a couple of other things on the table”, which have now been addressed in-season.
“There’s still more improvement to go, and we’ve got another great test against North,” he said.
The Adelaide Oval blockbuster is crucial for the two teams’ finals hopes.
Adelaide are eighth and racked up four-straight wins ahead of last week’s bye.
North would be a massive scalp, given the Crows are two wins behind the top four teams.
They also have a better percentage than third-placed North and three-time defending premiers Hawthorn, who are fourth.
Adelaide is likely to turn on a wild night for the match, with thunderstorms, heavy rain and 40km winds forecast.
After North’s week from hell, if they beat Adelaide it could prove a season-defining scalp.
The Kangaroos are coming off a six-day break following the fiery nine-point loss to the Hawks.
It proved a costly night, with star onballer Daniel Wells (ankle) and Luke McDonald (hamstring surgery) injured and forced out of Thursday’s game.
While Wells in particular is a major loss, captain Andrew Swallow (concussion) and fellow onballer Ben Cunnington (quad) are also key inclusions.
Wells and already-absent key forward Jarrad Waite did not fly to Adelaide yesterday with their teammates and the Kangaroos later confirmed they would not play.
It’s been a torrid week for the Kangaroos, after coach Brad Scott made an epic blunder in the post-game media conference when he claimed the umpires had admitted to a bias against Lindsay Thomas.
It quickly emerged that the accusation was completely wrong and the AFL fined North and Scott a combined $80,000.
Friday’s loss cost North top spot and they have dropped three of their last four matches.
Those losses have been to Geelong, Sydney and the Hawks – the other three teams in the top four.
While the weather may curtail Adelaide’s attacking flair, Pyke says he aims to be a “balanced coach”, emphasising “I’d like a side ideally that plays well in all facets of the game”.
“Every playing group is different but the playing group we’ve got has the capacity to score – that wasn’t really in question,” he said.
“If we’re good in all areas, the sum of our parts will be a good whole.”
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