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Riley relishing finals return

Katrina Gill  September 14, 2017 6:03 PM

Friday Knight Lights Crows forward Riley Knight speaks about his second finals campaign
I just really enjoy playing finals footy

An emergency in last year’s finals series, Crow Riley Knight is hoping to play a valuable role for the team this September.

Knight, 22, showed a penchant for the big stage in 2015.

In only his 10th AFL game, the hard-running forward kicked two clutch goals in Adelaide’s thrilling Elimination Final win over the Western Bulldogs.

He also played in front of 70,879 fans at the MCG in the Semi-Final loss to Hawthorn the following week.

“Every step further you go in the finals, the pressure and intensity goes up,” Knight said.

“To get that experience a couple of years ago is, hopefully, going to hold me in good stead.

“It’s taking forever to come around at the moment but it’s very exciting for the Club, our fans and personally for me to, hopefully, be playing in a prelim final next week.”

Riley Knight celebrates a goal in the 2015 Elimination Final

Knight managed just one senior game, against Richmond in Round Three, in an injury-interrupted 2016.

The popular goalkicker couldn’t force his way back into a settled Crows team despite strong performances in the SANFL towards the end of the season.

After being a spectator for both finals last year, Knight returned to September action in Adelaide’s Qualifying Final win over Greater Western Sydney a week ago.

The former Clare junior played with the ferociousness that finals football requires.

One of Adelaide’s best pressure players, he applied a team-high 10 tackles.

Knight also hit double figures for contested possessions (10) and finished with 17 disposals.

“I just really enjoy playing finals footy,” he said.

“You always want to play well in big games.

“I love playing a contested style of game and that’s what finals footy is, it’s just really tight and in close.”

Last week’s win over GWS was Knight’s first final at Adelaide Oval.

The South Australian said it was a very different experience to his two finals in Melbourne in 2015.

“You don’t actually realise how big it (the home crowd advantage) is in terms of the extra support and how much it helps you get over the line,” he said.

“We’re in a really good position now. We’re probably not going to get a better chance to go all the way, so hopefully the crowd can turn up again next week and support us.”

Knight made his AFL debut at Subiaco in Adelaide’s emotion-charged first match after the passing of coach Phil Walsh in 2015. His first win was in a Showdown the next week.

Last week, the Crows banded together again in support of ruckman Sam Jacobs, who’s mourning the tragic loss of older brother Aaron from illness.

The most touching moment of the Qualifying Final was the image of Jacobs being comforted at the end of the game by defender Brodie Smith, who had been cruelled by a serious knee injury in the first quarter.

Knight said the Crows were a galvanized group heading into next week’s Preliminary Final.

“The Club’s been through a lot of lows over the last couple of years, and I think having those lows has made the group really close,” he said.

“When it gets tough out there we can rely on each other. We have that really strong bond … and the trust within the playing group that the bloke standing next to you is going to be able to get the job done.

“When games start to get tight in finals you’ve got to be able to rely on that to get over the line.

“It’s not just a direct result of what’s happened over the last couple of years, we’ve worked really hard as a group in becoming really galvanized and it’s starting to pay off.”

Despite being a mainstay in the Adelaide team this season, the 29-gamer feels as though he’s still establishing himself at the level.

“I never feel comfortable in the side, which is a good thing because it keeps me honest and working hard to maintain my spot,” he said.

“Hopefully, I’ve done enough to hold my spot for the prelim and get another crack at it.”