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Nigel Smart: Six-day break cost the Crows top four

Football

The Adelaide Football Club’s Chief Operating Officer Nigel Smart has blamed a six-day break between games – a turnaround the Crows demanded from the AFL – for their shock final round loss to West Coast that cost them a coveted top four berth.

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The club has been careful not to make excuses for the defeat, which bumped it into fifth place and a series of sudden-death playoffs – the second of which takes place against Sydney at the SCG tomorrow night.

But Smart, a dual premiership player and veteran of 278 games, told a Property Council gathering yesterday that there were “a few things happening at the club at the time, including the six-day break” that explained the Adelaide Oval capitulation, in which coach Don Pyke lamented the Crows were “beaten in pretty much every facet of the game”.

The Crows had made much of their hasty exit from Perth the previous week to beat the Adelaide Airport curfew in preparation for a curtailed week, before a narrow victory over Port Adelaide and another six-day layoff before the final round, in which they were comprehensively outplayed by a fired-up Eagles outfit.

“Certainly the lost game we played really had a lot of people doubting the club and the playing group,” Smart told the lunch.

“But from an internal perspective there was a few things happening at the club at the time, including the six-day break, which went towards putting that performance on the field.”

The admission appears at odds with CEO Andrew Fagan’s mantra that there were “no excuses” for the loss.

But the spectre of short turnarounds between the previous fortnight’s Sunday afternoon win over Fremantle, the Power game and the Friday night showpiece looms as a painful talking point in the Crows’ offseason, given it was the club itself that demanded the marquee billing after the AFL had sought to experiment with a Monday night game ahead of the post-season bye.

When the league backtracked after the club’s formal protest, Fagan told The Advertiser the decision was “a win for Crows fans”.

“It is great news for our fans – not just that Monday night has been taken off the agenda but that the game is now on a Friday night,” Fagan said at the time.

“This game was deserving of a prime spot – and it now has the best spot on the calendar, Friday night… it is a great outcome for our club and our fans.”

But according to Smart’s analysis, the boon at the gate may have come at the cost of the team’s performance, after two six-day turnarounds in succession.

Nonetheless, the COO remains bullish about the team’s chances against the Swans.

“We play well on the SCG… I think we’re going to the game confident, but not underestimating Sydney in terms of their talent,” he said, noting that a win would mean “you’re in the final four, and anything can happen”.

Novice ruckman Reilly O’Brien today joined the team’s travelling squad to Sydney, despite not being one of Adelaide’s three emergencies in yet another unchanged selection lineup.

The Crows insist there’s no alarm over their regular ruck duo, saying O Brien is travelling as insurance for lead tap-man Sam Jacobs and his ruck partner Josh Jenkins.

“The only time he gets a game is if Sam Jacobs does something in the warm-up or in training,” Crows assistant coach James Podsiadly told reporters at Adelaide Airport.

Jenkins has been carrying an ankle injury but was in no doubt for the knockout final, he said.

AFL Season 2016, Elimination Final, Kangaroos, Adelaide Crows,

Josh Jenkins has been cleared to play – for now – as the Crows midfield prepares to take on the Swans’ onball brigade. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

“He trained pretty solidly on Wednesday and he will train today again,” Podsiadly said.

O’Brien, who made his AFL debut this year, was left out of Adelaide’s official 25-man squad for the semi-final with Riley Knight, Paul Seedsman and Andy Otten named as emergencies.

The Crows are braced for a ferocious start to the final from a Swans outfit eager to atone for their qualifying final loss to Greater Western Sydney.

“We expect that, a side coming off a loss with a proud history like Sydney, they are going to come out pretty hard,” Podsiadly said.

“They are actually a contested side anyway but so are we. We are expecting the first 10, 15 minutes of the game to be pretty hot and we have just got to match them in that area.”

Adelaide were also mindful of the danger of becoming overly-focused on Sydney’s attacking ace Lance Franklin, who has been central to the pre-game planning of Podsiadly, who works primarily with Adelaide’s backline.

“He is one of the premier players and premier forwards in the competition so we have to respect his talent and his ability to change a game,” he said.

“From my perspective, we have done a fair bit of work into him but also we have done a fair bit of work on their other forwards.”

The Crows will have a pre-game training session today at the SCG, a ground on which they have played just twice in the past eight seasons.

-with AAP

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