The Crows are set to unveil new recruits Eddie Betts and James Podsiadly, and promising draftee Matt Crouch in their opening NAB Challenge game against Port Adelaide at Richmond Oval.
Betts, 27, joined Adelaide as a Free Agent in October. The two-time Carlton leading goalkicker played 184 games for the Blues, establishing himself as one of the premier small forwards in the AFL. The elusive goalkicker ranks No.1 in the League for score assists (195) and forward 50m tackles (168) in the last five years.
Podsiadly, 32, also became a Crow in the offseason after playing 83 games, including the 2011 premiership, with Geelong. The mobile key forward is ranked 2nd in the AFL in contested marks (behind Collingwood star Travis Cloke) in the last four years (2010-13).
Betts and Podsiadly will be part of a new-look Adelaide forward line. Coach Brenton Sanderson said it was important the goalkicking duo learned to play alongside their Crows teammates.
“We’ve got some new players, so it’s important that guys like James Podsiadly and Eddie Betts get in the habit of working with our forward line. Chemistry is really important,” Sanderson told afc.com.au.
“It’s the same in the midfield. Patrick Dangerfield, Rory Sloane, Richard Douglas and Scott Thompson need to ensure they get some minutes together to prepare them for the start of the season.
“Our young backline will get better and better the more time they spend together too.”
Crouch, 18, was selected with Adelaide’s first pick (No.23 overall) in last year’s AFL National Draft. The strong-bodied midfielder has impressed during match simulation over the pre-season, displaying his innate ball-winning ability and clean hands at stoppages.
Coach Brenton Sanderson said Crouch was poised to earn an opportunity in an extended Crows squad to tackle the Power at Richmond Oval on Sunday, February 16.
“Matt Crouch was our first pick in the draft and hasn’t really missed a beat,” Sanderson told afc.com.au.
“He plays a bit differently to his older brother, Brad. He’s a left-footer and has a different body shape. He’s a nuggety, inside midfielder whereas Brad has a bit more outside class. Matt will certainly be exposed to some NAB Challenge games.”
Clubs can play up to 26 players (six interchange and two substitutes) in the NAB Challenge games.
Sanderson said a number of players would receive opportunities in the opening match, with a view to settling the side for Round One by the trial game against GWS on Friday, March 7.
“Ultimately, we’re more focused on playing Geelong in Round One, but the NAB Challenge provides us with the opportunity to ensure we’re ready for Round One,” he said.
“Every time we pull on the Crows jumper we want to win, but at the same time we want to refine a couple of little adjustments that we’ve made through the summer. We’ll give a lot of players a taste through the NAB Challenge.
“The exact amount of game time depends on the individual. For example, an experienced player like Scott Thompson probably only needs a game-and-a-half before Round One. Patrick Dangerfield is still only 23-years-old, so he might need some more game time to get himself ready.
“We’ll balance that as best as we can. By the GWS trial, we’d like to settle the team for Round One.”
As well as creating an opportunity for new faces, the NAB Challenge is a good opportunity for players, who were on the edge of selection last season, to cement a spot in the team.
“It’ll be interesting to see how guys like Jarryd Lyons, Sam Kerridge and Mitch Grigg, who all got a taste last season, step up early in the year,” Sanderson said.
“They’ll have to be up and going in the NAB Challenge to push for selection in Round One.”
Adelaide’s NAB Challenge clash with Port Adelaide starts at 4pm next Sunday. Tickets to the pre-season hit-out are available here.
Sanderson said there was an air of excitement around the Club with the end of a brutal pre-season in sight.
“We do a lot of match simulation at training and we feel as though we’re in a good position, but it’s difficult to gauge because it’s Crows v Crows – two teams playing to identical game styles and plans. The real test is when you start to expose your game plan and fitness levels to another team. There’s nervous anticipation around these NAB Challenge games as to exactly where we’re at,” he said.
“Round One against Geelong is a tough road trip – probably the toughest in the business, so we’ve got to be at our best early in the season. We won’t be flirting with out form too much in the NAB Challenge. We’ll try to get some good consistent footy before we travel to Geelong.”