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Pyke pleased, but not satisfied

Katrina Gill  June 16, 2017 4:08 PM

Inside the Four Walls Live: Bye Week Don Pyke stops by for a mid-season report
The next challenge for us is to continue to do it consistently in the bigger games and against the better opposition

Adelaide is in a good position to attack the second half of the season, says coach Don Pyke.

The Crows currently sit atop the AFL ladder with nine wins and a healthy percentage.

The Club’s victories have been convincing, by an average margin of 10 goals.

But its three defeats, at the hands of North Melbourne, Melbourne and Geelong, were stark reminders that there is still room for improvement.

“We’ve had some really strong performances. We’ve had a couple of disappointing games as well. There are areas we need to get better in. We acknowledge that and we’ve spoken about that internally,” Pyke said.

“We’ve seen growth in some of the areas we talked about wanting to get better in at the end of last year.

“We identified our contested work as an area we needed to improve and we’ve certainly made some strides in that area.

“Our team defence continues to be a work in progress, but we’ve taken some steps forward with that.

“Our ball movement has maintained at a high level. The next challenge for us is to continue to do it consistently in the bigger games and against the better opposition.”

Adelaide’s promising start to the season has been underpinned by its work at the contest.

After 12 rounds the Crows rank No.1 for contested possession – averaging seven more contested possessions a game than last season.

Midfielders Rory Sloane (14.1), Matt Crouch (12.6), Brad Crouch (12.5) and Richard Douglas (10.4), and newcomer Hugh Greenwood (11) are all averaging more than 10 contested possessions.

Further highlighting the importance of getting first hands to the ball, Adelaide has lost the contested possession count in two of its three defeats – to Geelong (-34) and Melbourne (-16).

The Crows finished on top of North Melbourne in this statistic (+7) in Round Seven, but trailed the Roos by 13 contested possessions in the lopsided, match-defining first quarter.

Tackling and pressure on the ball carrier are also incorporated into the contest.

The highest-scoring team in the League, Adelaide has punished the opposition with more points from turnovers than any other side. Again, Sloane and Douglas lead the way – ranked equal-third in the competition for turnovers forced.

In the opening 12 rounds, the Crows have forced the second most opposition clanger kicks. This time last year, Adelaide ranked 16th

The Crows also have the lowest percentage of scores against per inside 50m (43.5%) compared to the fifth-highest after 12 rounds last year.

Adelaide has allowed only 49 inside 50ms in its victories this season, but given up 61 entries in its losses.

“You can’t restrict an opposition all the time. They’re going to score at times,” Pyke said.

“It’s a matter of making sure we limit the opportunities they get to take the ball inside 50m.

“That’s probably a key indicator – stopping sides getting the ball inside our defensive 50m because it means we’re able to turn the ball over higher up the ground.”

The good form of ruckman Sam Jacobs has also been a key to Adelaide’s fortunes.

Entering the bye, Jacobs leads the League in hit-outs with 496 including 138 to advantage – ranked No.2.

Pyke said rule changes, including the removal of the third-man up and deliberate out of bounds, were creating a slightly different style of play.

“I think the ruckmen now have more influence around the stoppage than they probably did last year when the third-man up was impacting it,” he said.

“Also, the focus on deliberate out of bounds has meant the ball is staying in play longer, so your ability to transition quickly and read what the game is telling you is important.

“Sides who can score from turnover and transition are performing well.”

Greenwood, who made his AFL debut in Round Nine and has played four games, is one of several inexperienced players to impress.

Pyke was particularly pleased with the core group of 20 - 23-year-olds in the team.

“Jake Kelly didn’t play at all last year, but he’s come into the team and been a solid part of our backline,” he said.

“The growth also continues in players like Jake Lever, and Charlie Cameron and Matt Crouch, who have just gone past 50 games. Brad Crouch is approaching 50 games. We’ve seen Wayne Milera on a wing as well as Rory Atkins, and Riley Knight even though he’s been in and out with injury. 

“There’s still a lot more room for improvement, but they’ve been able to come in and play their role and give some real energy to the side.”

The Crows, who have a bye this weekend, will re-start the season against Hawthorn at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night.

“It’s another big game for us. We’ll keep trying to rack up the wins. If you do that and do it consistently, that gives you the best chance at getting the right sort of finish at the end of the season,” Pyke said.

“We came in with a clear vision of what we want from the players and coaches. We’re tracking towards that, which is a positive, but as I always say this competition is so even that we can’t afford to look to much further past the first game out of the bye.”