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Max Phillips  September 7, 2017 8:41 AM

There's No Place Like Home The Adelaide Crows are about to fly as one at Adelaide Oval in the 2017 Finals campaign. Adelaide Vision: Copyright SATC
Matt Crouch has become one of Adelaide's most important midfielders - Adelaide Crows,Adelaide Oval

Matt Crouch has become one of Adelaide's most important midfielders

Who will stand up on the finals stage?
There’s just something special about September. The Crows and Giants will kick off the 2017 finals series in front of a packed house at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night, and there’s no shortage of star power for either team. Eddie Betts is a proven match-winner and has kicked nine goals in his past two finals, including multiple majors in six of his 10 total finals matches. Taylor Walker has hit the scoreboard in every final he’s played, while Mitch McGovern’s match-saving mark against Collingwood earlier this season proves he loves the big moments. Brodie Smith can be just as damaging from the backline and has the flair and ‘x factor’ to change the course of a match, while Crows fans know Charlie Cameron and Riley Knight love a final. Crows coach Don Pyke put it perfectly in his press conference on Wednesday: “This month is what creates great players – great teams come out of this month.”

Next man up
Rory Sloane will miss his first game of the year on Thursday night. The star onballer was ruled out after he underwent surgery to remove his appendix last Tuesday. It’s impossible to replace the two-time Club Champion, but the Crows have proven they can cover him throughout their 2017 home and away campaign. Opposition clubs targeted the courageous midfielder following his stellar start to the season. Sloane, who was an early favourite for the Brownlow Medal, copped close tags week-in, week-out, but several teammates stood up in his place. Matt Crouch has produced a career-best season, older brother Brad Crouch is relishing an injury-free run, big-bodied onballer Hugh Greenwood has made an immediate impact and classy veteran Richard Douglas continues to perform at an elite standard. Although Adelaide lost its last game without Sloane - against West Coast at home in Round 23 last season - the Crows have shown they’ve come a long way since then.

Finals experience to the fore?
You can’t buy experience, but who has the advantage heading into Thursday night? Adelaide’s selected 22 has played a combined total of 97 finals compared with the Giants’ total tally of 83. Interestingly though, Greater Western Sydney will have the two most finals-hardened players on the ground in former Magpie Heath Shaw (20 finals) and tough ruckman Shane Mumford (12). Adelaide boasts a more even spread of finals performers led by Eddie Betts, David Mackay and Richard Douglas, who have all played 10 matches in the major round. Both teams will introduce two players to finals footy on Thursday night with Crows Jake Kelly and Hugh Greenwood and Giants defenders Aidan Corr and Harry Himmelberg set for their first taste of September action. Is there an edge for either team or is it too close to call?

Giant crowds to continue
Three of the top four crowds the Giants have played in front of have been against the Crows in Adelaide, and that trend looks set to continue. Thursday night’s match could mark just the second time Greater Western Sydney has played in front of a crowd in excess of 50,000 people. The biggest attendance the expansion club has competed in front of was at last year’s Qualifying Final against Sydney at ANZ Stadium (60,222). Ironically, the Giants’ lowest attendance was also against Adelaide in Round Seven, 2013. That match is better remembered for Tom Lynch’s incredible 10-goal performance in the Crows’ huge 135-point victory at Spotless Stadium. A massive turnout is expected at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night with only limited tickets remaining on game day. Need a finals ticket? Click here

Firepower up forward
Both sides boast a dangerous attacking mix which could prove a deciding factor in Thursday night’s contest at Adelaide Oval. The two teams have kicked five of the top eight scores of the season between them and they’re the only clubs with three players inside the League’s top 20 goalkickers this year. Adelaide finished the home and away season as the No.1 scoring side by a comfortable margin almost 250 points ahead of second-placed Port Adelaide. The Crows’ twin towers of Taylor Walker and Josh Jenkins are well supported by smalls Eddie Betts and Charlie Cameron, while versatile trio Mitch McGovern, Tom Lynch and Richard Douglas are proven goalkickers. Rory Atkins and Riley Knight both kicked multiple majors the last time the two teams met in Round One. The Giants also pack a punch up forward. Six-time club leading goalkicker Jeremy Cameron and fellow tall Jonathon Patton will need to be watched closely, while strong-marking small Toby Greene is an impact player inside 50. Forward/ruckman Rory Lobb and goalkicking onballer Josh Kelly can also do plenty of damage on the scoreboard. The forward line which fires first will play a huge part in the final result come Thursday night.