If the Crows are held to 52 points or less against the Bulldogs on Sunday it will cap the lowest-scoring season in the club’s history. Mark Bickley looks at why the goals have dried up for Adelaide.
Since football’s move from West Lakes to the city in time for the 2014 season, Adelaide’s four lowest scores have come this year.
The worst was a miserly five goals in Round 16 against the Power. Saturday’s six against Collingwood comes in second, followed by seven goals against Fremantle in May and another seven-goal performance in the season-opening loss to the Hawks.
For a team that described its pre-season as almost perfect, the scoring problems have been evident from day one of the season proper.
In an even more startling revelation, if the Crows are held to 52 points or less against the Bulldogs in Ballarat on Sunday, this 2019 season would be the club’s lowest-scoring return in its 29-year history.
It would take the mantle from the wretched 2011 season, where Neil Craig fell on his sword after just four wins in 16 rounds. That year, the Crows would go on to finish 14th in a 17-team competition.
The attacking lean patch comes hot on the heels of the Adelaide’s most prolific scoring seasons, in 2016 and 2017, which had largely the same personnel.
While we know the individual output of the forwards has been well below the free-scoring years of 2016 and 2017, is it also a product of the game style currently employed by Adelaide?
We have all marvelled at the year that departed small forward Charlie Cameron has had at Brisbane, but have you seen how the Lions play? They move the ball quickly, they leave space in their forward half, and wherever possible, kick the ball over Cameron’s head and have him race his opponent back to goal.
At the end of round 21, Cameron has 52 goals and is a lock for his first All-Australian selection. With the way the Crows now move the ball, it would be almost impossible for Cameron to have the same impact at his old club.
The Crows want to play a conservative kick-mark style in the back half of the ground before trying to be more aggressive after passing the centre. It’s not a new style and has proven successful with last year’s premiers West Coast, as well as the Magpies on the weekend.
It’s not so much the style of play that is the issue, as opposed to the ability of the Crows players to execute it.
West Coast and Collingwood have several elite kickers in the back half who can move the ball quickly and accurately, and if the defensive efforts of the opposition are poor (like Adelaide’s on the weekend) and an opening in the corridor appears, they take it — and that then opens up the front half of the ground.
Once the first line of defence is broken, the last line is vulnerable. Adelaide very rarely breaks the first line of the opposition’s defence. Teams then have time to get numbers back, making the job of the Adelaide forwards all the more difficult.
No disrespect to the Crows’ defenders, but apart from Brodie Smith (who is now playing up the ground) they almost always take the conservative sideways kick, rather than the attacking kick back into the corridor when it presents.
Who can blame them? Kicking is not their strong point, and it was five turnover goals in the third quarter that cost them the match against the Eagles.
That number was even worse on the weekend — 11 goals from turnover, most of them again in the back half.
It’s an area that needs addressing. Wayne Milera has the attributes but hasn’t looked comfortable in defence,
Paul Seedsman is another who could be persisted with, but it appears the emphasis is on the ability to defend, more so than attack.
It is clear that you need both. The Crows will be asking questions about Essendon’s Aaron Francis and the Power’s Jarrod Lienert, who are both out of contract or out of the team, and fit the bill nicely.
If, as most expect, the Crows undergo an overhaul of the playing group at year’s end, it is imperative the same rigour is shown to the style of play Adelaide employs. Once the style of play is locked in, the recruiting and trading strategy must reflect the skill-set that enables it to work.
Right now, Adelaide’s skill-set is a square peg, while the game style is very much a round hole.