When Matthew Nicks was unveiled as Adelaide’s senior coach in October 2019, one of the key themes that emerged was the desire for his players to “seek out the contest”.
Ahead of the Crows’ Marsh Community Series opener against Melbourne, Nicks told AFC Media his philosophy was no longer just a request, but a non-negotiable driven by the playing group.
“That (seeking out the contest) is an expectation now... our group expects that of each other,” Nicks said.
“Most of our guys love that side of the game, so it hasn't been hard at all to talk about the contest.
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“We talked about seeking out contests - don't wait for it to come (and) we saw it on the weekend (in Adelaide's match simulation).
"We saw a young group attack our older boys and put it to them. What we saw, even more importantly, was a response from that older group to turn that around.
Nicks said success for the Crows on Saturday would be measured not just by the contested football metrics, but how well the 26 players implement the overall game plan and team defence.
“A win for us is seeing some of our training come through, and that's just the style of play we'd like to go with,” he said.
“Some of our contest work that we've really put time into, some of our team defence… they are our two key focus areas.
“If we come out of the game and we're proud of what we've seen there, it’ll be a step forward.
“The scoreboard is the scoreboard. If Melbourne is too good for us, well so be it. We'll make adjustments and that's what the pre-season is about.”
The evolution of Adelaide’s 2020 game plan has been a collaborative effort between Nicks and his assistant coaches.
Nicks said his line coaches - Marty Mattner, Michael Godden and Ben Hart – have been “all over it”.
“It's a hybrid of what we had done in the past, of different things I've seen across my journey as far as where we see football going… we've put those together and come up with a game plan,” Nicks said.
“We're always going to adjust and there are small things you work on because the game changes, the opposition brings different looks, so we want to be quite flexible in that space.
“From a coaching group point of view, we've enjoyed the growth we've seen in the group and the engagement they've had in what we're trying to do.”
After a gruelling summer of training and a series of match simulations, the Crows are eager to test their progress against AFL opposition.
“We've seen some really good results, against ourselves, which becomes tough. You sort of get sick of doing that after a while,” Nicks said.
“Saturday can’t come around quick enough from our point of view, as coaches, just to get a little bit of a benchmark.
“I know our players are in the same boat.”