The 2021 season was another year of development for the Crows, with senior coach Matthew Nicks continuing to implement his plans into a youthful squad.
Despite a 15th-placed finish, there were numerous positives and exciting signs for Adelaide last year, with their campaign kicking off with a stellar upset over Geelong at home. A one-point win over eventual premiers Melbourne was another highlight in an overall disappointing year.
After another low finish, the Crows enjoyed a busy off-season of recruitment to place them well on course for their return to finals contention.
In: Jordan Dawson, Josh Rachele, Jake Soligo, Zac Taylor, Luke Nankervis
Out: Tom Lynch, David Mackay, Tyson Stengle, Daniel Talia, Jake Kelly, Ronin O’Connor
Rebound 50s - 2nd
Disposal Efficiency - 15th
Turnovers - 17th
Disposals - 16th
Star player: Rory Laird
A move to midfield saw Laird turn from star defender to superstar onballer, averaging 32 possessions, 5.9 tackles, 6.8 clearances and almost 15 contested possessions per game.
In the often absence of leading ball-winners Matt Crouch and Rory Sloane, Laird was able to conjure a stellar season in the engine room under Matthew Nicks and will enter 2022 as their first-choice option among their followers.
With further names knocking on the door for midfield selection, Laird can still be trusted to offer exceptional service from the backline.
One to watch: Riley Thilthorpe
The first-round draftee plucked from South Australia enjoyed a promising maiden season at West Lakes, with his debut game a rare highlight for the Crows in 2021.
Thilthorpe booted five goals against the Hawks, which placed him on track to end the season with a return of 18 goals from 14 matches.
Also able to pinch-hit in the ruck, Thilthopre is sure to play a significant role for the Crows as they look to fine-tune their forward structure in 2022.
Under pressure: Taylor Walker
Set to serve his suspension handed down from last year’s racism remark scandal, Walker will start the 2022 season behind the eight ball.
While the veteran forward was a significant piece in the Crows’ short-lived successes in 2021, he won’t be a certain starter under Nicks in his return to the senior side.
Needing to earn back the respect of many in the AFL landscape will place plenty of pressure on Walker for the year ahead.
The additions of Jordan Dawson and Josh Rachele combined with the continuing development of emerging talent is sure to give Adelaide higher hopes than where they were placed heading into last season.
However, there’s no guarantee the Crows will improve on their 15th-place from 2021. With other clubs that also fell toward the foot of the ladder showing similar signs of growth, the Crows can expect to see another finish among the bottom third of the league.
For Nicks and his squad, an improvement on their wins tally will be a box they can hope to tick off, but further signs of ascendancy from their young crop will be their top priority.
Five matches to watch
Round 1 vs. Fremantle, Adelaide Oval, Sunday 20 March
Round 3 vs. Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, Friday April 1
Round 15 vs. North Melbourne, Blundstone Arena, TBC
Round 16 vs. Melbourne, Adelaide Oval, TBC
Round 23 vs. Port Adelaide, Adelaide Oval, TBC
All time games
- Andrew McLeod - 340
- Tyson Edwards - 321
- Mark Ricciuto - 312
- Ben Hart - 311
- Nigel Smart - 278
All time goals
- Taylor Walker - 489
- Tony Modra - 440
- Eddie Betts - 310
- Josh Jenkins - 296
- Mark Ricciuto - 292
MOST DISPOSALS: Rory Laird - 704
MOST TACKLES: Ben Keays - 133
MOST CLEARANCES: Rory Laird - 150
MOST MARKS: Paul Seedsman - 118
MOST GOALS: Taylor Walker - 48