Adelaide’s SANFL coach Mick Godden concedes it’s been a season of ups and downs, but says Crows fans should be excited for the future.
The reserves side finished the season with just five wins, but helped lift nine young Crows to their AFL debuts in 2021.
For many of Adelaide’s SANFL players, Covid-19 meant 2021 was their first season playing at a senior level.
Godden said it was a “year full of lessons”.
“A younger AFL group means the guys that I had were younger again… add to that the inability to play last year due to Covid, and it was one of those years where there were so many guys getting a taste for the first time,” he told AFC Media.
“The first half of the year was essentially just teaching, every week, how to execute the game plan and dealing with situations in games, how to counteract those situations and make decisions under fatigue and pressure.
“As the year drew on, we added layers to that game plan.
“As they got better at handling how to play senior footy against men, these players started to show really exciting signs.
“That didn’t necessarily equate to wins and losses, but there were certainly internal KPIs that we started to hit… and we started to see a brand of footy that we want to see in future.”
Godden said while it was a challenging year on the scoreboard, seeing so many young players get the opportunity to step up to the big stage showed the strengths of his side.
“One of thoe little wins you get when you work in development is, when a player makes their AFL debut, it’s in small part because of what you’ve been a part of at the lower level,” he said.
“And, from the other side, we’ve had a lot of guys come from local footy (on our development list) and come up and play at SANFL level.”
The coach had high praise for youngsters like Brayden Cook, Lachlan Gollant and State League Club Champion Kieran Strachan.
“From where (Cook) came from when he first walked in the door, to where he ended up, was super exciting,” Godden said.
“He hadn’t played senior footy - he played under 18s at South (Adelaide) - and progressed his way into a pretty demanding industry and found his way into the AFL side.
“Ronin O’Connor, in his second year, was one of the ‘Covid crew’ that missed out on playing last year, so to see his growth throughout the year was really good and another one.
“Benny Davis, who went from forward to back and pushed his way into the AFL team, started to really show some good signs.
“Lachie Gollant, who went through preseason and got himself to the point where he makes an AFL debut, and then came back to the SANFL (last week) and made six shots on goal… that’s a huge progression and was rewarded with a contract for next year.
“The same with Kieran Strachan, to see him come through and play AFL level was really exciting, and then to come back and perform in the SANFL, was impressive.”
Looking to 2022, Godden said Adelaide supporters and Members should be excited by where the Club was headed.
“Next year, there will be an evolution of our game plan, as we add layers that will take them to the next level and that next level again,” he said.
“The big thing is to continue growth. That first step is reasonably easy for talented kids, but to go to the next level, not just as a participant, but as a consistent performer, is the challenge.
“What I did get excited by this year was the ability for these guys to adapt under the pressure of senior footy.
“Our list is so demographically different from any other list, it’s going to be amazing as a Member to watch that story unfold… to see them in their infancy to where they’re going to get to.
“As a supporter of the Club, that’s what I would be excited for.
“To watch and take interest in those kids, through the ups and downs, highs and lows, but ultimately they’ll get better and better.
“To our fans - embrace this growth period, because at some point they’ll be the primary players at an AFL ground.
“And that’s so exciting to be there from the start.”