The Crows are under increasing pressure to drop Taylor Walker after another below-par return from the co-captain as his side was overrun by the Eagles on Saturday night.
Leading by 33 points early in the third term, Adelaide collapsed to lose by 12 points before a stunned home crowd.
Five kicks, two marks and no score wasn’t enough from their co-captain in such a crucial game.
Walker also gave away a pivotal free in the second term to deny Wayne Milera a long-range goal.
The 29-year-old’s 2019 stats are down on his career numbers. He is averaging eight kicks a game (compared with 9.02), five marks (5.75) and 1.6 goals (2.25).
Another stat-line says it’s not through lack of effort — Walker’s making more tackles stick this season, 2.2 per game as opposed to a career mark of 1.6.
But that might be because he’s second to the ball more often. In his 11th year, perhaps he’s starting to lose his edge.
Walker has struggled for goals this season. He booted four against St Kilda in round six, and three against the Lions and Suns.
But he’s been held to one or no goals in six of Adelaide’s 10 games.
The pressure on Walker has been amplified by Josh Jenkins’s six goal haul in Adelaide’s reserves last week, as much as it has by consecutive Crows losses.
“I can’t understand why Josh Jenkins was sitting in the stands,” Kane Cornes said on the Sunday Footy Show yesterday. “I reckon that game was lost at selection as much as it was on the field.”
On the face of it, replacing the injured Tom Lynch with a medium-sized player, Paul Seedsman, was a sound move in the slippery conditions.
Coach Don Pyke also had a big tactical win when he pushed Milera (three goals) forward.
For a coach sometimes criticised for being too rigid, the Milera move was a revelation that seemed to wrong-foot Eagles coach Adam Simpson. But it’s hard to win while carrying two key forwards.
Pyke said Walker and youngster Elliott Himmelberg — who had three kicks and was also goalless — “had their moments”.
“They did a pretty solid job of bringing the ball to ground,” Pyke said.
Pyke said a forward’s lot was a hard one when the delivery was so poor. “I don’t think we connected as well. I don’t think we used the ball as well forward of centre.
“And that left us either wide or shallow in terms of entries. So we’ll review that in terms of what’s the most effective forward structure and personnel going forward.”
Something was amiss up forward for the Crows on Saturday. They had 60 more disposals and 12 more inside 50s but lost by two goals.
Adelaide’s other captain, Rory Sloane, rowed his side of the boat. When the going was rough in the third term — when the Eagles booted five goals to two — the champion onballer repeatedly drove the ball forward.
But once again the Crows were exposed for speed in the middle. The most glaring example was in the dying minutes, with the game in the balance, when West Coast’s Luke Shuey streaked away from a centre ball-up, had a bounce, and found Jack Darling with a lace-out left-foot pass.
That lack of polish in the middle will amplify calls to reinstate the out-of-favour Bryce Gibbs.
So Adelaide’s selection will be in the spotlight this week — as will the standard of umpiring, again, after several confusing decisions — ahead of the trip to Darwin to play Melbourne.
As for the West Coast, well, the Eagles have landed. After four wins in a row, they’re well-placed to launch a premiership defence from a top four berth at the end of the minor round.
But Simpson isn’t getting carried away, saying don’t forget Saturday’s second quarter, when the Crows booted 5.6 to the Eagles’ solitary behind.
“That second quarter was a great concern,” Simpson said. “We need to look at that. A lot.
“Because our best is as good as anyone, and our worst is as bad as anyone.”