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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Eddie Betts of the Crows reacts after kicking a difficult goal during the 2015 AFL round 20 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, Australia on August 15, 2015. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Eddie Betts of the Crows reacts after kicking a difficult goal during the 2015 AFL round 20 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, Australia on August 15, 2015. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)

Who’s ready for Eddie?

Essendon had no answers for Eddie Betts, who kicked six goals to equal his best haul as a Crow, when Adelaide hosted the Bombers in Round Four this season. Experienced defender Mark Baguley started on Betts, but it was impressive first-year Andrew McGrath who finished the game on the Adelaide star.

It would be a strong vote of confidence in McGrath, who will be fresh after being managed last week, if John Worsfold and his coaching team gave the composed No.1 draft pick the job on Betts this time around. With Baguley being rested, Marty Gleeson and the versatile Patrick Ambrose are also options for the two-time All Australian.

As a Crow, Betts has kicked 19 goals in four games against Essendon and is up and about after kicking four goals from eight scoring shots in last week’s Showdown.

At the opposite end of the ground, the Crows will have their hands full nullifying Bombers cult hero Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, who kicked four goals last time the two teams met. The man the fans call ‘Walla’ was the hero with three goals in Essendon’s win over Carlton last week. 

Reliable Adelaide backman Luke Brown is rarely beaten and could get first crack at McDonald-Tipungwuti, but he'll need all the help he can get from fellow small/mid-sized defenders Rory Laird, Brodie Smith and Jake Kelly. 

Betts (third) and McDonald-Tipungwuti (sixth) are both also elite pressure players – ranked top 10 for forward 50m tackles. McDonald-Tipungwuti has applied more rundown tackles (11) than any other player this season.

Raising the roof

Saturday night’s game will be Adelaide’s first at Etihad Stadium this season. The Club’s last premiership season match at the venue was in Round Seven last year. After a tough run at Docklands in 2010 – 2011, the Crows have won there more than they’ve lost in recent times. In fact, Adelaide boasts the best winning percentage (48.2 per cent) of any non-Victorian team at Etihad Stadium except for the Sydney Swans. Geelong (68 per cent) has the best record of any side at the ground.

Conditions at Etihad Stadium are conducive to high scores particularly when the roof is closed as it will be on Saturday night. Adelaide has the most 100+ scores of any non-Victorian team at the venue (29). The Club’s score of 27.14 (176) against Carlton in Round 22, 2009, was the ninth-highest score at the venue, while the 112-point win over a depleted Essendon in Round 20, 2015 remains the 10th-biggest victory in Etihad Stadium’s history. The high-scoring Bombers are averaging 108 points per game at their home ground in 2017 – up on their season average of 98 points.

Not your average Joe

The form forward in the competition, Joe Daniher leads the Coleman Medal race with 56 goals – two more than two-time winner Josh Kennedy of West Coast. Crows backman Kyle Hartigan held Daniher to two goals at Adelaide Oval earlier this season. In the absence of the injured Hartigan, All-Australian full-back Daniel Talia, who stood Cale Hooker in Round Four, seems the obvious match-up for Daniher this weekend.

One of the most miserly defenders in the League, Talia is also in good touch. Of the 20 players who have been involved in the most defensive one-on-one contests, Talia ranks second for contests won (35) behind only Richmond’s Alex Rance (36). Talia (groin) and Daniher (knee) both picked up minor injuries last weekend, but are set to take their places on Saturday night and their likely battle looms as an intriguing one. 

Daniel Talia hot on the heels of Joe Daniher at Adelaide Oval in 2016

Hot Sauce

Prior to beating All Australian fancy Paddy Ryder to claim a third Showdown Medal last week, Crow Sam Jacobs had attracted little fanfare for his impressive season. The consistent ruckman’s numbers stack up with the best big men in the competition.

Jacobs, who has played every game, has been involved in more ruck contests than any other player. He leads the League for total hit-outs (757) and is second for hit-outs to advantage (213). Jacobs has collected 278 disposals (ranked third amongst ruckmen) at 71.6 per cent efficiency, putting him in the top echelon of ruckmen who have played 15 or more games in 2017. He’s also been involved in 114 scores behind only Brisbane Lion Stefan Martin (116) among ruckmen, including eight goals of his own.

Jacobs, who has done an enormous amount of work on his aerial contests, leads Adelaide for contested marks with 30 – ranked top-20 in the AFL. The former rookie has achieved several career-highs this season, including 26 disposals, nine marks and eight inside 50ms against Richmond, and a personal best seven tackles in Adelaide’s Round Four win over Essendon.

A two-time All-Australian nominee, Jacobs has been unlucky yet to earn selection in the best 22. In an even season for ruckmen, the reliable 29-year-old deserves strong consideration.

Is the Showdown letdown a thing?

Coincidentally, Adelaide is set to play Essendon following a Showdown for a second time this season. There was no Showdown ‘letdown’ in Round Four when the Crows backed up a hard-fought win over Port Adelaide with a 65-point victory over the Bombers at Adelaide Oval. 

In actual fact, the Crows have a 72 per cent winning record the week after playing their bitter cross-town rivals. This includes nine wins in their last 11 games post Showdown. If the Crows aren’t at their best against the Bombers on Saturday night, the much-hyped Showdown last week won’t be to blame.



Crow Hugh Greenwood and Bomber and fellow Tasmanian Josh Green in their junior days