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Who's laughing about the Crows' 'organic growth' now?

Football

The Adelaide Crows spent the summer being mocked.

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They had missed catching a big trade fish – Carlton midfielder Bryce Gibbs – and they had sent seasoned on-baller Jarryd Lyons packing to the Gold Coast.

The external summary of the Crows’ trade period was bleak: they had weakened the key midfield area, rather than strengthen it.

But internally the Crows coined a phrase to sate concerned supporters: organic growth.

The phrase was initially used by Adelaide’s list manager Justin Reid in a radio interview.

“We think we’ve got some organic growth (in the list),” Reid said when explaining the club’s idle trading.

Many scoffed at the term. But now, Reid is entitled to a quiet chuckle himself.

Organic growth – a less-punchy term would be ‘improvement’ – has been a hallmark of Adelaide’s stunning season.

The Crows topped the ladder. They are about to host Geelong in a preliminary final.

The organic growth of Adelaide’s midfield can’t be denied.

Matt Crouch is an All-Australian at the age of 22. His older brother Brad has stamped himself as a genuine star.

Matt Crouch clears ahead of Tom Scully in the Crows’ qualifying final win. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

The Crouch brothers’ experienced midfield colleagues – Rory Sloane and Richard Douglas – have enhanced their status.

Former basketballer Hugh Greenwood has emerged as a vital cog in Adelaide’s on-ball brigade in his first AFL season.

“They have taken great strides, which is fantastic,” Crows coach Don Pyke said yesterday of his midfielders.

“And as I said at the start of the season, we as coaches are here to try and make all of our players get better, otherwise we’re not doing our job.

“To the credit to the guys who have worked closely with the midfield group, they have done a fantastic job.

“And the midfield guys have embraced the opportunity.

“Sometimes you don’t know what people are capable of until they are given an opportunity.”

And, as has been the theme of the week, it’s all been done without Patrick Dangerfield, who flew the Crows’ best to return to his Moggs Creek home and star for Geelong – the team that now stands between Adelaide and a Grand Final berth.

Dangerfield says Adelaide are the best team in the AFL, and have been all season.

Patrick Dangerfield arrives at Adelaide Airport yesterday. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

They run a lot deeper than star midfielder Sloane, who had starred in their last meeting – a 21-point round-18 win by the Crows.

What’s more, the 50,000-strong crowd will take some quietening.

But Dangerfield still thinks Geelong can tonight’s preliminary final and, with it, a place in the grand final at the minor premiers’ expense.

“Our best is good enough,” Dangerfield declared yesterday afternoon at Melbourne airport as he prepared to fly to South Australia.

Having never played in a grand final, the Brownlow Medallist says the battle of the season’s top-two finishers is the biggest game of his career.

Dismissing pre-game jibes from Josh Jenkins and other ex-teammates as “tongue in cheek”, Dangerfield made clear his respect for Adelaide.

“They’ve been the best side all year and play a really strong brand of footy,” he said.

“Adelaide are far more than just Rory Sloane. We understand that he’s a gun of the comp.

“So’s Matt Crouch, who was All Australian this year. And there’s many others.

“Tommy Lynch has had a really good season. They’ve got so many attacking weapons off half-back.

“But I think we’ve been really competitive against the best sides and we showed that on the weekend.”

Geelong’s semi-final smashing of Sydney erased any lingering doubts over whether the Cats belonged in the top four.

Dangerfield was deployed in the forward line, unsettling the favoured Swans. He’s been named at full forward on the team-sheet too, but he’s not giving anything away.

“I don’t think it’s going to be back pocket,” he joked of his likely starting position.

“It’ll be midfield and forward depending on the flow of the game.”

The 27-year-old has already returned to Adelaide Oval twice in Geelong colours, which he suggests will prepare him for the inevitable onslaught from the 50,000-strong crowd.

As many have suggested previously in finals, Dangerfield says the start will be key.

” You can’t look too far ahead. It’s simple. It’s the first five minutes,” he said.

“We need to make sure we bring the intensity that finals warrant.

“We go in with real confidence because I think we’re a pretty good side.

“Nothing I can say really matters all that much … it all comes down to actions.”

Patrick Dangerfield shares a laugh with Steven Motlop after the Cats defeated his former team at Adelaide Oval in May last year. They’ll return tonight to play for a place in the Grand Final. Photo: Ben Macmahon / AAP

Adelaide have named veteran tall Andy Otten to replace hamstrung forward Mitch McGovern, while regaining Sloane after he missed the qualifying-final win over Greater Western Sydney following emergency appendix surgery.

Otten, 28, last played at AFL level in the round-19 draw with Collingwood.

The Cats have made two unforced changes with Nakia Cockatoo and Tom Lonergan replacing James Parsons and Zach Guthrie.

Hamstring injuries have restricted Cockatoo to 10 games this season, having last played in round 19.

Guthrie and Parsons are emergencies along with Jordan Murdoch, while the Crows’ emergencies are Wayne Milera, Alex Keath and Reilly O’Brien.

-AAP

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