Mark Bickley was Josh Jenkins’ forward-line coach when he arrived at the Crows and saw him become a vital player. But with the club looking to youth and JJ out of favour, he says it is time to part ways — even if that comes at a cost to Adelaide.
Not every story has a happy ending.
The relationship between the Adelaide Football Club and Josh Jenkins for most of it’s existence has been a good one and mutually beneficial. Unfortunately those days have passed.
The time is right for the two parties to agree that their futures are no longer aligned, and that both can benefit from the separation. So where has it gone wrong?
Jenkins arrived at the Adelaide football club for next to nothing, in fact just a reduction of 10 positions in the draft order after being stolen off Essendon’s rookie list.
As the forward coach at the time, it was hard not to be impressed with the basketball convert.
Jenkins quickly developed into a dangerous prospect up forward with his size, speed and improving skill level, debuting in Round 7, 2012.
At first it was in tandem with Kurt Tippett, then upon his departure, he would prove a more than adequate replacement. So determined to replace Tippett, Jenkins chose to take his number four guernsey and make it his own.
After steady improvement in 2013, Jenkins would break the 40-goal barrier in 2014, and do it every season since.
From 2014 to now only nine players in the AFL have kicked more goals and include names like Josh Kennedy, Lance Franklin, Tom Hawkins, Eddie Betts, Jack Riewoldt, and Jeremy Cameron.
Jenkins averages 2.2 goals a game during that time. Even this season with indifferent form and two stints in the SANFL Jenkins has maintained his two goals a game average, a feat not matched by the Crows most noted goal kickers, Taylor Walker and Betts.
The problem for Josh hasn’t been goals, it has been a number of other factors. His contested play has never been a strength and, even when at his most productive, the physical aspects of the game didn’t come naturally.
Maybe his years on the basketball court instinctively had him looking to avoid contact as opposed to crashing packs like other key forwards.
In essence he played more like a flanker than a 199cm marking forward.
The less visible factor has been the deterioration of the relationship between Jenkins and senior coach Don Pyke.
Jenkins’ forthright nature in his media commitments and openly challenging selection decisions has not endeared himself to the coach.
It appears when there have been lineball decisions at selection, most have gone against Jenkins. I’m not saying they were wrong, as players ultimately pick themselves through their performance, just noting the factors that have contributed to the strained relations.
Despite some flaws, Jenkins still has plenty to offer but with the Crows ageing list and the need to blood some young key forwards, his future lies elsewhere.
Adelaide knows it has to significantly overhaul its list at season’s end. The Power last year traded Jared Polec and Chad Wingard who had currency in the marketplace.
The resulting draft picks were pivotal in securing key young talent.
I’m not suggesting Jenkins has anywhere near the same currency, but he will bring a return. Adelaide will also be testing the value of other players like Alex Keath and Hugh Greenwood who are out of contract and being courted by opposition clubs with deep pockets and specific needs.
Both players are in their late 20s and unlikely to be a part of the Crows next Premiership side.
If opposition clubs offer the right picks they too could become collateral damage in the list rebuild.
One sticking point with the potential Jenkins deal will be the remaining two years of his contract, reportedly upwards of $550,000.
Turning 31 in February and coming off a lean season, is there a club willing to pay that price? Or will it fall to Adelaide to continue to pay a portion of his wage for the next two seasons to get the deal over the line?
This is where the negotiating gets tough for the Crows. Opposition clubs will know Adelaide are heading down the youth path and wanting to play Darcy Fogarty and Elliot Himmelberg as a priority. The last thing the Crows want is a highly paid 31 year old playing in the SANFL.
Paying a chunk of Jenkins salary to another club, while unpalatable, may turn out to be the most cost effective option. The decision to contract Jenkins to a long-term deal in 2016 has attracted criticism but at the time he was in red hot form and a key member of the best forward line in the competition.
The Lions were offering the earth and the prospect of Adelaide losing another player meant the Crows were between a rock and a hard place.
Although the dollars were less than the Brisbane offer, they chose to match the five-year term. Jenkins finished with 62 goals in 2016, his most productive season.
As we now know in the AFL, contracts aren’t necessarily forever.
This time it’s a good thing for both Josh Jenkins and the Adelaide Football Club.
A split would allow Josh to continue his career in a new environment where his skill set and experience are required and for the Crows a chance to get a draft pick and some salary relief as they look to reset and build towards their next flag.
It’s not exactly a win-win, but it does allow both parties the chance to move on.