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How the high-flying Crows are bucking the AFL system


They’re unbeaten. Kicking 20 goals a game. Averaging a whopping 132 points. And all that without a top 10 draft pick.

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Don Pyke’s barnstorming Adelaide Crows are bucking the AFL system; sitting atop the ladder, comprised largely of a motley crew of mid to late-order draft steals.

And some trade deals which leave the Crows with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Eddie Betts? Free agent. Haha. Rory Sloane? Pick 44. Hehee. Taylor Walker? A nominal pick 75, having signed with Adelaide as a New South Wales Scholarship player. Bahahaha.

Adelaide’s bargain list goes on.

And the sum of its parts sits unbeaten after six rounds and with newfound flag favouritism.

Coach Don Pyke finds the favouritism and flattery “nice” and “interesting”. But he says it’s irrelevant to him.

“It’s nice for people to be reflecting on how we’re playing,” Pyke told reporters yesterday.

“People projecting and people writing opinions is interesting.

“But it’s not really relevant to what we’re doing.”

What they’re doing is beating an AFL draft system tailored to mediocrity rather than success.

Since 2004, the Crows have finished lower than 10th just four times – no extended bottom-out and replenish via top-choice draft picks.

Then there was the Kurt Tippett kerfuffle, costing another two first-round picks in 2012 and 2013.

Yet they now score so freely. Why?

“I really haven’t thought about that, to be honest, as to why,” Pyke said.

“It’s not a great secret. It is just how it has evolved.”

Much has come from shrewd recruiting eyes.

Ultimately we want to bring in as much high-end talent as we can – and high-end character

While captain Walker’s leadership is rightly hailed, so should Adelaide be for landing the Broken Hill junior at age 16, two years before he was formally recruited via the 2007 national draft.

Vice-captain Sloane was a pick 44.

Defender Rory Laird, surely set to crack an All-Australian team after two seasons in the squad, and livewire Charlie Cameron came in rookie drafts.

Skilled winger Rory Atkins was a pick 81. Another emerging midfielder Riley Knight was pick 46.

Dependable small defender Luke Brown was recruited via a Greater Western Sydney pre-selection.

Onballer Brad Crouch came via a GWS mini-draft deal. His brother Matt cost pick 23 in a trade involving a club champion, Bernie Vince, a sacrifice to force the club back into the upper echelons of the 2013 draft.

Ruck Sam Jacobs cost the Crows picks 34 and 67 in a deal with Carlton.

Josh Jenkins’ price was a pick 31, Mitch McGovern was chosen with pick 43.

All this draft value is now reaping big returns under Pyke.

“I don’t know if it says anything about the program,” he said.

“We have recruited some good young players that have come in.

“Where people get drafted is a number.

“Ultimately we want to bring in as much high-end talent as we can and high-end character – and we have got that.”

Second-year wingman Wayne Milera is Adelaide’s highest pick in action, taken 11th at the 2015 AFL draft.

All-Australian fullback Daniel Talia (pick 13), All-Australian half-back Brodie Smith (14) and rising defender Jake Lever (14) are other higher-end selections.


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