This week the Adelaide Crows are playing in a grand final for the first time since 1998. They have finally made it to the main dance after years of near misses – including 2005-2006 when they fell just short to a rampaging West Coast Eagles side in consecutive prelim finals, and again five years ago against Hawthorn.
A lot of key personnel have left the club in recent years, but the Crows have replaced them superbly. Let’s take a look at how the Crows parlayed a rebuild into potentially the most successful season in their history:
Bock was known for his ability as one of the league’s best rebounding defenders across half-back and also having the ability to play as a third-tall in defence.
His departure to the Gold Coast Suns for their inaugural season in 2011 was a big loss at the time. Bock won All-Australian selection and the club’s Best and Fairest award in 2008. However, he had a number of injury issues at the Suns and only played 27 games in a three-year period before retiring in 2013, aged 30.
Since Bock left, the Crows have replaced him with the dashing Brodie Smith, who has had several good seasons and is yet to reach the peak of his career.
Davis was seen as a key cog to hold down the centre half-back position for over the next decade when he made his debut in 2010. Key defenders don’t grow on trees, and losing Davis to Greater Western Sydney for their inaugural season in 2012 had Crows fans fuming.
While the emergence of Daniel Talia in 2012 and experienced veteran Ben Rutten helped plug the gap, they have finally found a suitable replacement for Davis in Kyle Hartigan, who looks to have a mortgage on the centre half-back role for years to come.
As with Davis, Gunston chose to leave at the end of 2011 after spending two years in Adelaide. Gunston was seen by the Crows as a rising star – kicking 19 goals in 12 games in 2011.
For the Crows to see him do so well at Hawthorn after that – including playing in four grand finals and becoming one of the game’s best set-shots at goal – was tough to swallow. Gunston has developed into one of the league’s best forwards and is not far off kicking 300 career goals.
The Crows were able to instantly trade for Tom lynch, who has since become a valuable lead-up forward, also capable of kicking goals on his day.
This one really angers Adelaide fans the most. Tippett was supposed to fulfil his potential at the Crows and dominate with Taylor Walker for the next decade.
But Tippett’s departure on a big deal to Sydney in 2013 ended up exposing some problems he had at the Crows, while seeing him lose two grand finals and fail to live up to the expectations on him would delight the more bitter Adelaide fans now.
Josh Jenkins has developed into one of the game’s best mobile key-forwards – kicking over 40 goals in his last four seasons for a total of 193, compared to Tippett’s output of 102 in that time.
Q1 | The Crows’ faithful haven’t hidden their feelings for Kurt Tippett.
— AFL on 7 (@7AFL) August 18, 2017
The biggest fish out of the lot. While Dangerfield played out his last season in 2015 at the club in terrific fashion, he was supposed to be the loss that caused mayhem when he left for Geelong.
However, this was seen as an opportunity for Rory Sloane to grow into the Crows’ number one midfielder. Add in the young Crouch brothers, Brad and Matt, having the opportunity to become ball-winning machines and the Crows midfield is now more team-oriented.
The Crows’ preliminary final demolition of the Dangerfield-inspired Cats was more than a little symbolic of the club’s remarkable rejuvenation over the past five years – despite losing a stack of blue-chip stars.
No GF for Paddy Dangerfield. No GF for Phil Davis. no GF for Kurt Tippett. Game on Crows #aflgf
— Rikki Lambert (@rikkilambert) September 23, 2017