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Pyke shuffles deckchairs as McGovern ruled out

Football

Mitch McGovern has been ruled out of tomorrow night’s do-or-die preliminary final, with Crows coach Don Pyke confirming today the match-breaking forward would not be risked against Geelong.

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McGovern has been under a cloud since reporting hamstring soreness after a Saturday training session that included a match simulation, with the Crows having played just one AFL game since late August.

“He won’t be available,” Pyke told reporters.

“He’s made some good progress since Saturday, and should we progress we’ll give him every chance [but] he was probably [always] going to struggle this week…

“We’re hopeful he’ll be available the following week.”

But he won’t play the following week unless the Crows win through tomorrow night to their first Grand Final since 1998.

“That’s the beauty of the position we find ourselves in,” Pyke mused.

“We’ve created this opportunity – now we have to take it.”

The Crows will miss McGovern’s aerial strength against the Cats. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

And they’ll have to take it against a Geelong outfit boasting stars such as Adelaide’s own former best and fairest, Patrick Dangerfield.

The will he-won’t he intrigue of the week has been whether the Brownlow Medallist replicates his goal-square start that proved so influential in the first half against Sydney last week.

“Clearly he played forward last week and was a damaging player, but we’ve prepared for him to play forward and middle and where he starts we’ll just adapt around that,” Pyke said.

“He’s a very good player and we recognise that – he’s strong around the ball as a midfielder, and as a forward – but Geelong’s not just about him.

“They’ve got quality on all lines… you don’t make a preliminary final without a depth of talent.”

Adelaide’s own depth will be tested with McGovern’s absence on top of the withdrawal of influential rebounding defender Brodie Smith, who ruptured his ACL early in the Crows’ qualifying final victory against the Giants.

While Pyke was coy on his selection moves today – besides confirming the obvious, that gun onballer Rory Sloane would return after appendix surgery – he noted “we’ve got some options” for shuffling the defensive deckchairs.

“Obviously Dave Mackay went back for us against GWS and did a good job, Seedsman and Douglas have played down back, so we’ve got some options,” he noted.

“But it’s more about the right balance for our team.

“We have to get the blend right in terms of not only our running capability but also our tall [and] small numbers against a Geelong side that we know have got some real weapons.”

In Chris Scott, the Cats also have a mentor renowned for pulling surprise match-ups, with last Friday’s semi-final win widely hailed as a feather in his coaching cap.

But Pyke suspects the coach’s role is being overplayed.

“I don’t really think it’s about myself or him – it’s about the teams,” he said.

“We prepare our teams, we understand the strengths of our teams… both teams have got to this point. I’m sure they’ll come with a clear plan of how to beat us and we’ll come with a clear plan of what’s going to get it done against Geelong.

“But the reality is finals comes down to the contest, winning it where it counts – and that’s the midfield.”

Adelaide’s own midfield was under the microscope pre-season, with doubts about whether its talent ran deep enough to hold its own against top-line foes.

Pyke agreed his minor-premiership-winning charges had “taken great strides” in a short time.

“We as coaches are here to try and make all our players get better [but] sometimes you don’t know what people are capable of until they get the opportunity,” he said.

And tomorrow night, the Crows have their biggest opportunity for a Grand Final berth in at least five years, despite queries about the impact of the semi-final week off coupled with the pre-finals bye.

Pyke said the training regimen had been intensified to build up to tomorrow night.

“The temptation is to probably try and go a bit easy and cruise to the next week, but we wanted to train with a level of intensity and purpose that’s got our guys ready to play,” he said.

As to whether that’s been achieved – “we’ll find out”.

“That’s the unknown,” he said.

“Finals footy is about playing good, hard, aggressive team footy… we think from a program viewpoint that we’ve got the balance right.”

-InDaily

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