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Coach calls for contested ball

Max Phillips  December 1, 2016 4:53 PM

AFL 2016 Rd 19 - Adelaide v Essendon

Senior Coach Don Pyke

Last year we played some really powerful football, but we’ve got some more growth in us.

Don Pyke says Adelaide will focus on its ability to hunt the contested ball this summer ahead of his second season as Senior Coach.

The Crows qualified for finals for the second straight season in Pyke’s maiden campaign at the helm, but also failed to progress beyond Semi-Final week for the second year running.

Pyke said the Crows must continue to improve in all facets of the game, but identified Adelaide’s ability to win the 50-50 ball as a key focus ahead of the full squad’s return to pre-season training on Monday.

“The main area that we’re looking at is an improvement in our contested stuff,” Pyke said on SEN on Wednesday.

“That’s what finals footy really finds out, is your ability to win your share of the ball in the contest. The Grand Final was an example of that.

“Looking at the numbers at the end of the year, it was an area where (we need to improve).

“Last year we played some really powerful football, but we’ve got some more growth in us.”

Playing numbers finalised

The Crows ranked second this year in contested possessions per game, behind only Grand Finalists Sydney, but further analysis proves Pyke’s point.

Adelaide was only sixth in hard-ball gets and finished the season with a +2.3 contested possession differential, well behind fellow 2016 finals contenders Sydney, Geelong, Greater Western Sydney and premiers the Western Bulldogs.

“That’s an area there we can think we can do some work, both aerially and on the ground,” Pyke said.

“We probably dropped back a level (this) year than we were say in 2015. That’ll be one area that we have some pretty strong focus on.”

Adelaide was the AFL’s highest-scoring side this year and ranked third in the statistic in Season 2015.

Pyke said Adelaide would look to add more balance to its play, but also insisted the Crows need to continue playing to their strengths.

“Our ball movement is important and we (need to) keep working on it, because it is a strength of ours and our ability to score,” he said.

“Sometimes you get caught chasing things and improvement in a whole range of areas and you take your eye off what you’re really good at.

“I think we showed when we were playing really powerful, strong footy, our ball movement was at a high level. Our scoring’s been well-recognised in the industry but we also made some improvements in our team defence. I think we knocked a goal off from scores against from the previous year.

“We made some progress there, we’ve got some more to go, but they’re probably the main areas.”

Adelaide’s 1-4 year players have already been in training for almost a fortnight ahead of the return of their senior teammates.

Pyke expects a core group of young players to make great strides next season and beyond.

“There’s a lot to look forward to,” he said.

“There’s a list here on my board of guys who, last year because of the low numbers we played, missed out on opportunities.

“Riley Knight didn’t play a lot of footy, we’ve got Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Dean Gore who came for his first year and Hugh Greenwood who stepped up from basketball and got back into the game.

“Curtly Hampton we didn’t see much of (this) year because he had some foot problems, Harrison Wigg is another one, and Wayne Milera we saw a little bit of early (this) year but then opportunity didn’t really present in the last half.

“Some of the young guys we’ve brought in through the draft are going to add to us, not only next season but the years thereafter, as well as other guys who are itching for an opportunity.

“There’s some guys who are really keen. Already at training we’ve seen a high level of energy on the track.”