The state of South Australia is full of joy and excitement after the Adelaide Crows qualified for their first Grand Final appearance since 1998.
An impressive home and away season has been capped off by two dominating finals games to book their place in this years decider against Richmond.
While there has been some fantastic individual efforts by many players throughout the entirety of the season, it has been the Crows’ unbreakable bond with one another as they have continued to fight on despite all the tragedies and heartbreaks that they have had to face over the last few years. It has been this resistant and resilient culture that will give the Crows a strong opportunity to create a dynasty of success and triumph.
The tragic loss of former Crows coach Phil Walsh had an immediate and long lasting impact on both players and supporters mid way through the 2015 season.
Despite its severe difficulties in getting through the death of Walsh, it has been his long lasting legacy within the club despite his short stint at the Crows that has inspired the players to move on and create a culture within the club that gives Adelaide such an important advantage.
The sad passing of assistant coach Dean Bailey as well as the recent death of Sam Jacobs’ brother Aaron have also been significant barriers the the group have had to overcome.
But it is the fact that they have overcome these losses and have managed to create bond around that team that is resilient and full of belief and hope that has helped the Crows become the team they have been this season.
Adelaide’s recruiting efforts and it’s emphasis on player development over the past decade have also played an important role in the lead up to their grand final appearance this weekend.
The Crows’ focus over the last few years has been to blood a team full of character rather than just talent, demonstrated through the final team that is facing the Tigers on Saturday which doesn’t contain one person who was picked up in the top 10 of the draft.
Even in the minds of the Adelaide coaching staff, few would have believed that the last pick (Pick 75) of the 2007 AFL draft in Taylor Walker would become the Crows’ first Grand Final captain since Mark Bickley.
Walker has become a inspiring leader for the Crows. After his initial appointment as captain from Walsh in 2015, Walker’s leadership skills have blossomed and is reflected through his awarding of the AFLPA Best Captain award for the last two seasons. His efforts inside 50 have also given tall forwards Tom Lynch and Josh Jenkins some assistance with the three combining for 128 goals so far this season.
Even with the speculation of some of its stars being of interest by many clubs in the trade window, in particular Jake Lever, Adelaide of all clubs have the ability to not allow such departures to have a significant effect on their progress.
Patrick Dangerfield leaving at the end of the 2015 season was sure to have put the Crows’ back on many levels in their road to premiership glory with some even claiming the Crows to “not quite be at the level required of a premiership side”.
But the stepping up of many of the clubs midfielders such as Rory Sloane, Rory Atkins and the Crouch brothers as been an rewarding compromise for the loss of Dangerfield as their outstanding efforts have helped Adelaide to produce one of the most hard working and dangerous midfield groups in the last couple of seasons.
Even the exits of players such as Kurt Tippett, Jack Gunston and Phil Davis caused many to suspect a downward spiral within the Crows establishment however through the leadership of List Manager Justin Reid, his involvement in the inclusions of Sam Jacobs, Eddie Betts and Paul Seedsman from trades over the past 5 years have proved to be fulfilling as their ability to attack the football and become a menacing prospect for their opponents have played vital roles in the Adelaide’s ruthless path to the Grand Final.
Regardless of the result on Saturday, it is fair to say that both on and off the field, the minor premiers look to become a force to be reckoned with over the next few seasons and in the famous words of Phil Walsh, the Crows will “get the job done”.