Forever, they will be known as the first Crows.
They are the 20 footballers who carried the State’s hopes and expectations when the Adelaide Football Club charged into new territory at Football Park on March 22, 1991.
It was one of the biggest nights in South Australian football history. For the first time, the Adelaide Crows were playing for premiership points in the Australian Football League – taking on mighty Hawthorn – and Football Park was packed with an expectant crowd. And if there were any doubts about the new direction, they were blown away by Adelaide’s 86-point win.
State captains and players, Magarey Medallists, club stalwarts and young footballers from all ten SANFL teams, they combined to share the special sporting moment under coach Graham Cornes.
Chris McDermott led the way. Adelaide’s first captain did not follow mates including Stephen Kernahan and Tony McGuinness to the VFL in the 1980s but after 265 games for Glenelg and South Australia he was finally playing at the highest level. Unfortunately, his memories are hazy because he was knocked out in a collision with Dermott Brereton and Paul Dear early in the last quarter.
McGuinness, the 1982 Magarey Medallist, returned after five years with Footscray and was one of only three Crows with VFL experience in the opening round. The others were Bruce Lindner, from Geelong, and 1985 Magarey Medallist Grantley Fielke, who spent a season with Collingwood.
The oldest Crow was David Marshall. The midfielder, aged 30 years and 265 days on his AFL debut, had already played 322 SANFL games for Glenelg, where he played in two premierships (1985-86) and won a best-and-fairest in 1990. He was one of the stars on opening night with 22 kicks, seven handballs and two goals.
Bruce Lindsay, Darel Hart and Tom Warhurst were other SANFL veterans who also thought their opportunities to play at the highest level had gone. Warhurst, a seasoned defender for Norwood and SA, played only one more AFL game but in this first match stopped Hawthorn champion Brereton.
Port Adelaide forward Darren Smith was another experienced player who had resisted offers to leave SA.
Others, including Scott Lee, Romano Negri and John Klug, spent time at VFL clubs but had not been given a chance at league level. Klug, the casual moving but highly effective centre half forward, walked over to Football Park to play after spending the day at work for Westpac Bank in West Lakes Mall.
Simon Tregenza, a quick wingman from Port Adelaide, was the youngest Crow having turned 20 earlier in the month. Another young gun, Rod Jameson, who supported Hawthorn as a kid, spent most of the night watching from the interchange bench after earning a late call-up to replace injured forward Scott Hodges.
Promising South Adelaide defender Nigel Smart’s initiation to the big league was to stand Hawthorn’s champion full forward Jason Dunstall and super sub Eddie Hocking became a crowd favourite.
1987 Magarey Medallist Andrew Jarman was another who had chosen to stay in the SANFL. Socks pulled up over his knees, he lined up next to younger brother and new Hawk Darren in the centre square.
Other Crows were barely known outside their SANFL club. South Adelaide’s Peter McIntyre, originally from country New South Wales, booted four goals on debut. At the age of 24, Norwood’s reliable farmer Rodney Maynard kicked three goals from half back and Glenelg’s Robbie Thompson had 20 possessions out of defence.
The list of Crows ‘firsts’ started with Negri winning the first tap, Klug the first handball and Tregenza the first (and second) kicks. Then McGuinness booted the first of Adelaide’s 24 goals on a historic night.
The first Adelaide team was:
F: Bruce Lindner, Peter McIntyre, Darel Hart
HF: Darren Smith, John Klug, Grantley Fielke
C: Simon Tregenza, Andrew Jarman, David Marshall
HB: Bruce Lindsay, Tom Warhurst, Robbie Thompson
B: Scott Lee, Nigel Smart, Rodney Maynard
R: Romano Negri, Chris McDermott, Tony McGuinness
Inter: Rod Jameson, Eddie Hocking
Adelaide 6.2 11.6 17.10 24.11 (155)
Hawthorn 2.0 3.3 6.8 9.15 (69)
Crows goals: Lindner, Klug, McIntyre 4, McGuinness 3, Maynard 3, Smith 2, Marshall, Hart, Jarman 1.
Crows best: Jarman, Smart, Marshall, Klug, Tregenza, Maynard, Lee.