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AFL Media season preview

Lee Gaskin, AFL Media  March 20, 2017 1:10 PM

How will the Crows fare in Season 2017?

How will the Crows fare in Season 2017?

AFL Media’s Best 22 – Round One

B: Luke Brown, Kyle Hartigan, Jake Lever
HB: Brodie Smith, Daniel Talia, Rory Laird
C: Rory Atkins, Matt Crouch, David Mackay
HF: Tom Lynch, Taylor Walker, Charlie Cameron
F: Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins, Mitch McGovern
Foll: Sam Jacobs, Rory Sloane, Richard Douglas
I/C: Andy Otten, Curtly Hampton, Wayne Milera, Troy Menzel

Injury list
Crows captain Taylor Walker (hamstring tightness) and vice-captain Rory Sloane (fractured eye socket) will be touch and go for the clash with the Giants. Midfielders Brad Crouch (hamstring) and Scott Thompson (shoulder) will get game time in the SANFL before returning to the senior side. Winger Paul Seedsman is still a few weeks away after struggling with a groin injury.

The big questions
Can the Crows' midfield hold up against the best in the competition?

Right now, you have to say no. All-Australian vice-captain Rory Sloane is an out and out star, but there are still a lot of questions on those around him. Curtly Hampton has made great strides in the JLT Community Series, Rory Atkins looks great, Brad Crouch is a midfield beast when he's fit and younger brother Matt is on the verge of becoming an elite on-baller.

Will young guns Jake Lever and Mitch McGovern re-sign?
Lever is almost a certainty to remain at the Crows next year. The key defender is considered a future captain of the Club and his younger brother is in Adelaide's SANFL development squad. The lure of playing alongside older brother Jeremy McGovern at West Coast will be a big attraction for Mitch, but so will playing in the Crows' outstanding forward line.

AFL 2016 First Elimination Final - Adelaide v North MelbourneThird-year Crow Jake Lever has developed into one of the Club's most reliable backmen

Can the Crows win the premiership?
They have the best forward line in the league, a solid defence, but it's hard to see them going all the way with their midfield group. Getting Carlton star Bryce Gibbs would've been huge, and the Crows might regret not parting with two first-round draft picks. They will be in the top eight, but it's hard to see them going all the way.

Look for…
Charlie Cameron to be the Crows' X-factor through the midfield. Cameron showed with his cameo performance on the wing against Sydney in last year's semi-final that he can make an impact higher up the ground. Will still play predominately in the forward line, but his bursts through the midfield will be decisive.

Who they play
Overall, it's a challenging draw. The Crows have the perfect opportunity to see where they are at in Round One, when they host the premiership favourites, Greater Western Sydney. They face top-eight sides Geelong and Hawthorn twice, the improving Melbourne, a full-strength Essendon and arch-rivals Port Adelaide. The Crows have three games at the MCG along with trips to Hobart, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth.

Fantasy cash cow
Curtly Hampton ($204,000) should be a lock for every Fantasy coach. The former GWS defender has moved to the midfield, playing all three games of the JLT Community Series and impressing with his pace and decision-making. With several injuries to the Crows' midfield, Hampton is a certainty for round one and should hold his spot for the season.

Sudden impact
Midfielder Jordan Gallucci – the Crows' first pick at the 2016 NAB AFL Draft and No. 15 overall – should make his debut at some stage during the season. He had some nice moments during the pre-season competition and will be in contention after he develops his game in the SANFL. Former basketballer and Category B rookie Hugh Greenwood will also be in the mix for an AFL debut.

It's crunch time for…
Brad Crouch. For the Crows to be successful this year, they need the injury-plagued midfielder to have a big season. His first priority is to stay on the park. A hamstring injury has derailed Crouch's pre-season after he managed to string together some impressive games at the end of last year.

Pressure rating on the coach
"Simmering below the surface." Don Pyke went 17-7 in his first season at the Crows, but there are always high expectations at the club, especially with the quality list at his disposal.

AFL 2017 JLT Community Series - Adelaide v Geelong
Don Pyke is set for his second year at the helm as Crows Senior Coach

The Crows will have a good year if …
They discover a diamond in the rough in the midfield and have a deep run into September.

They’re in trouble if …
Rory Sloane is out for an extended period of time. He's so important to their midfield with his pressure around the ground and diligence to his defensive duties.

Pass mark …
Reaching the second week of the finals. Simply making the top eight and bowing out in a Elimination Final isn't good enough for this group. It's time they delivered on their promise and made a serious tilt at a premiership. predicted ladder finish
5th. It's hard to see the Crows improving on last year's performance. They will certainly be in the mix, but the midfield will struggle to compete with the elite sides over 23 rounds.

Player Ratings star
Tom Lynch, 33rd. The high half-forward rocketed up the rankings last year, rising 143 spots to go from 176th at the start of the season to finish 33rd. Booted 42 goals to go with 19.5 possessions and 6.5 marks per game.