How good would the Crows be if Patrick Dangerfield had stayed?
Or, to put it another way, how well are they going without him?
The former Crow has taken his game to new heights in 2016, standing alone as Brownlow Medal favourite at odds not dissimilar to the ones enjoyed by winner Nat Fyfe last year.
It’s impossible to say the Crows wouldn’t be a better side without the 26-year-old in it, but it’s not a question anyone at West Lakes is keen to entertain.
“We’ve moved into a different space now,” coach Don Pyke said.
“We’ve got guys who have come in and relished the opportunity that’s been presented.
“To be honest, they’re playing their role and playing it really well. We look forward.”
Pyke is hoping that his team without their former champion can grow into a champion team, and on the evidence of the past two months, they’re well on the way.
The Crows are the league’s form side after notching seven-straight victories including three over finals-bound sides.
Carlton is certainly not that, but the Crows were nonetheless tested early yesterday, before pulling away from Brendon Bolton’s side to record a 16.11 (107) to 7.5 (47) win.
Back-to-back successes at the home of football for the first time since the Crows claimed the 1998 grand final has Adelaide fans dreaming, with good reason.
It’s a stage Pyke’s side could be set for once more given their well-rounded midfield and incisive attack.
Rory Sloane was the game’s dominant midfielder, Rory Laird produced a damaging performance from half-back but Adelaide had contributors across the board.
Former Blues pair Eddie Betts and Sam Jacobs both kicked three goals, as did Josh Jenkins.
There was scarcely a poor performance on the field; even the team’s lowest ball-getters played a role.
Charlie Cameron and Mitch McGovern only had nine touches each but Cameron had seven tackles and McGovern kicked a classy snap when the contest was hot.
McGovern could be the man most to benefit from Dangerfield’s departure, debuting in round one and playing every match this season.
He hasn’t stopped to consider the alternate reality where Dangerfield might have made a different choice.
“We don’t think about it at all,” he said.
“It was a big talking point last year but to the credit of the boys, we’ve filled the spot really well and you can see the benefits on the scoreboard.
“We had 10 individual goalkickers (against Carlton).
“We know we’re a good attacking side … we all chip in.”
Pyke said he was delighted with his team committing to playing their roles.
“The pleasing part today was in different circumstances and conditions the guys adapted really well,” Pyke said.
“We’re playing good solid team footy and getting a really even contribution from our players.
“It’s building some confidence.”
The Crows led all day but took until late in the second quarter to kick clear.
Carlton stayed in touch through the goalkicking feats of fit-again utility Dennis Armfield.
Armfield tallied the Blues’ entire quarter-time score with three long bomb set shots from outside 50.
He would finish with a career-high four goals but none were cheered as roundly as Jack Silvagni’s first AFL major, in his second match.
Unfortunately for Carlton, their challenge fell away in the second term, with frustrated Blues forward Levi Casboult reported for a gut punch on Kyle Hartigan.
The Crows blanketed the young Blues and tallied 10 of the last eleven goals on their way to a percentage-boosting victory.
Bolton said he was tired of seeing his side miss opportunities to hit the scoreboard.
“We got enough inside 50s and caused quite a lot of centre-forward turnovers,” he said.
“We just didn’t capitalise on that effort.
“It’s a little bit deflating when you get a few entries and don’t get the reward.”
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