Sunday 18 February 2018 / 12:36 PM

Crows are back in Finals contention

I never thought I’d say this, but here goes: I’m jealous of Adelaide. The city that is. Yes, the city that is known for its churches, parks and iced coffee. Admittedly, it’s not these things that have made me jealous – milky drinks make bad things happen to my stomach – but their swanky new football stadium, the Adelaide Oval.

The two showdowns between the Adelaide teams this year both drew in excess of 50,000 people, and were split at one game apiece. Showdown XXXVII on the weekend had the added bonus of being a cracker of a game. I had a feeling it was going to be; so much so that I pencilled it in as one of my tightly rationed games to watch over the weekend. I wasn’t disappointed.

Port Adelaide has been the surprise packet of the year. But for all the scalps they’ve claimed and the fact that they’re perched in the top two after 15 rounds, there’s still a slightly iffy feeling about them, in that their position is more precarious than the other teams in the top four: Hawthorn, Sydney and Fremantle. That’s not to say that their wheels are about to fall off – far from it – but just maybe that there’s one or two nuts that are starting to loosen.

The Adelaide Crows, on the other hand, are pretty much where they were expected to be: fighting it out for a spot in the bottom two positions in the eight. But their gritty, aggressive win against the Power has not only suddenly made their finals aspirations more realistic, it’s given an insight into the Crows’ potential.

When you think about the players the Crows have lost in recent years, that potential could have been so much greater. Defender Phil Davis became the GWS Giants’ first signing from another club and their inaugural co-captain. Dead-eye forward Jack Gunston was traded to Hawthorn after contracting a nasty bout of homesickness. And, of course, there was Kurt Tippett, who Adelaide ended up losing to Sydney for nothing after paying him outside the salary cap.

That’s three top-class key position players, who are all mainstays in forward or defence for their new clubs. Imagine a forward line with Gunston, Tippett and Taylor Walker. The only equivalent of that forward line belongs to another club that has salary cap privileges, only theirs have been legally provided to them by the AFL.

But rather than focus on what might have been, the Crows have done some nifty forward line recruiting of their own in snaring former Carlton star Eddie Betts. His four goals on the weekend included two in the last quarter that only a precious few players could have conjured. And his subsequent crowd interactions while celebrating them had the Adelaide faithful in absolute raptures. In fact, the metaphorical roof was blown off the Oval in that last quarter.

The Crows now find themselves one win out of the eight, and snapping at the heels of the Gold Coast Suns and North Melbourne. With the Suns an unknown quantity at the pointy end of the season and the Kangas spluttering against the second-bottom side on the weekend, all of a sudden the Crows look the best of the three. Even sixth-placed Collingwood’s form isn’t spectacular, with the Pies just doing enough to get past lowly Carlton on Sunday night.

I’ve never been to Adelaide. Actually, I’ve been through its airport once on the way home from Melbourne. It was a surprisingly nice airport; spacious, efficient and clean. But I digress. Football, and more specifically the Adelaide Oval, is helping Adelaide shed its ‘boring’ tag, and both of their teams could be featuring prominently come finals time in 2014.

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Gary Ausbruch

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