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Atkins adding another dimension

Katrina Gill  March 6, 2017 12:31 PM

Rory Atkins Post-Match: JLT 2 Rory Atkins speaks to AFC Media about the Crows tough fought win over Geelong at Richmond Oval.
AFL 2017 JLT Community Series - Adelaide v Geelong

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 5: Rory Atkins of the Crows during the AFL 2017 JLT Community Series match between the Adelaide Crows and the Geelong Cats at Richmond Oval on March 5, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by AFL Media)

I also wanted to get a bit stronger in the gym, so I can help the team by moving from being an ‘outside’ midfielder to an outside/inside midfielder...

Rory Atkins has added another dimension to his game over the summer with the aim of spending more time in Adelaide’s engine room this season.

Atkins, 22, consolidated his spot on the wing in 2016. The left-footer used his long kick and sharp side-step to create space and break the lines, ranking second at the Club for metres gained.

He’s now focused on fulfilling coach Don Pyke’s desire for versatile players.

Atkins has been one of the Club’s standout performers over the pre-season, improving his running to finish second in the 2km time trial when the full squad returned to training in December. The fifth-year Crow, who has put on three kilograms, has also been noticeably more vocal on the track.

“Coming off a full pre-season last year, I wanted to build again and get fitter,” Atkins said.

“I also wanted to get a bit stronger in the gym, so I can help the team by moving from being an ‘outside’ midfielder to an outside/inside midfielder and get a bit more on-ball time as opposed to just being on the wing.”

An impressive Atkins was part of an expansive Crows midfield rotation at Richmond Oval on Sunday.

The clever ball winner split his time between the wing and midfield, kicking three goals from 20 possessions in Adelaide’s six-point JLT Community Series win over Geelong.

Coach Don Pyke said he was pleased with the young onballer’s progression.

“He (Atkins) has had a really good pre-season. He hasn’t missed a beat … he ran a personal best time (in the time trial) when he came back,” Pyke said.

“He’s a guy … who has now got a real sense of direction about what he wants to do with his footy.”

In the absence of injured trio Rory Sloane (fractured eye socket), Brad Crouch (hamstring) and Scott Thompson (shoulder), a host of Crows took turns starting at the centre bounces on Sunday.

Regular ‘inside’ midfielders Matt Crouch and Richard Douglas were joined by the likes of Atkins, half-back Rory Laird, forward Charlie Cameron, utility Curtly Hampton and untried players Harrison Wigg, Dean Gore and Hugh Greenwood. Draftees Jordan Gallucci and Myles Poholke also got a taste.

“We’re still exploring from a midfield viewpoint, guys who can play in a variety of roles,” Pyke said.

“He (Atkins) is one, and Rory Laird was in there a bit again today. We’re building in that space.

“We’re mindful that we want to add that flexibility and we’ll continue to do that.”

Atkins kicked the opening two goals of the game at Richmond Oval, including a nine-point ‘super’ goal when he wheeled around on his trusty left after taking a mark 60 metres out near the boundary.

“We were going with the wind and I just thought I’d give it a crack!” he said.

“It’s always good when you’re playing on the wing to get onto a couple (of goals).

“Sometimes you don’t get near them on the day, but today it just went my way.”

 

 

The Crows will round out their pre-season campaign against the Brisbane Lions at Noarlunga on Saturday from 3:40pm (local).

Pyke said his team would balance its needs ahead of the season opener against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday, March 26, with a six-day break between games this week.

“We’ll try and take in a side as a ‘dress rehearsal’ almost, but we’ll look at it (knowing) that there are still two weeks until Round One (after this weekend),” he said.

“If we’ve got guys out of today (Sunday), who aren’t quite right we won’t risk them. We’ll prioritise Round One ahead of that.

“But it’s important that they get a good hit-out and good, full minutes … that we don’t ask guys to jump from playing 50-60 minutes to playing 90 in Round One.”