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Crows begin mapping September blueprint

Marc McGowan, AFL Media  August 13, 2017 12:05 AM

Don Pyke Post-Match: R21 Hear from Don Pyke post-match.
Tonight was a turnover, transition game and to get those sorts of numbers is pleasing – that's been one of our strengths.

PACESETTER Adelaide is preparing to map out its September blueprint after maintaining a six-point buffer atop the AFL ladder on Saturday night.

Don Pyke's Crows are almost certain – with two rounds to go – of a top-two spot, which comes with not only a double chance but the potential of an Adelaide Oval ride to the Grand Final.

They made Essendon pay for its turnovers in a frenetic Etihad Stadium contest, scoring 96 of their 123 points, including 14 goals, off Bomber giveaways.

The final 43-point margin could be attributed to the difference in scores from turnovers, with Adelaide's slickness with ball in hand gifting Essendon only 47 points that way.

"It wasn't a high stoppage game, apart from centre bounce with the scoring," Pyke told reporters.

"So there weren't many stoppages between the arcs, which is generally a bit of a score source that allows you to structure up the game. Tonight was a turnover, transition game and to get those sorts of numbers is pleasing – that's been one of our strengths.

"But I was probably equally pleased with how we defended Essendon at times as well in that space, because, as you saw tonight, they can be really dangerous. To keep (a high-scoring team) down to 80 points was a good result for our defensive stuff."

Injuries to stars Rory Sloane (knee) and Taylor Walker (foot), albeit ones they returned to the field from, were timely reminders that Pyke has personnel decisions to make down the stretch.

Fremantle counterpart Ross Lyon infamously rested players en masse ahead of past finals series, but Pyke said the addition of a bye week before the post-season complicated matters.

"We won't take any unnecessary risks with guys. If they're not ready to play, they won't play –and we've had the same attitude all year," Pyke said.

"But I'm still a great believer that, for our guys and any team, it's about creating good habits and playing. It's easy to sort of go, 'Let's put everyone in cotton wool', but the reality is this time of year, the guys are conditioned to play and they actually relish playing.

"The other thing to consider, with that week off now (before finals), is you've really got to look and say, 'Do we want some guys not playing for three weeks?'.

"If you end up winning your first final, then you potentially play one game in five weeks, so we'll weigh that up and again, each player will be treated differently and assessed differently."

Pyke said both Sloane and Walker would be assessed on Sunday morning, but was confident they would be right to face in-form Sydney at Adelaide Oval on Friday night.

"Tonight was a different challenge probably, because with Essendon, we know they're a high-scoring team and they move the ball particularly fast," he said.

"It's the first time we've played Etihad this year and it was interesting talking to a few of the players afterwards, they noticed the increase in speed under the roof, so it was a different challenge and, as I've said all year, we want to meet each of these challenges and adapt.

"We get Sydney next Friday night, which will be a great game and another great opportunity for us to play our style in the lead-in to the finals."