Senior Coach Matthew Nicks says there are plenty of positives to take from Adelaide’s Round Nine loss to West Coast.
The Crows put up a fight but went down by 30 points at Optus Stadium on Sunday, a result aided by a five-goal second term burst from Eagles forward Jack Darling.
Addressing the media after the game, Nicks said the boys were disappointed by the result but would take home some important lessons from Perth.
“A disappointing game in the end but a really positive game. When we had it in the fight, at times we looked super competitive - but we want to be more than that,” Nicks said.
1. Darling’s show a tough teacher
West Coast’s Coleman Medal contender Darling bagged five goals in the space of just 15 minutes in the second quarter after a significant drop in pressure from the Crows.
Nicks said the string of majors was a hard, but necessary, lesson for Adelaide as it faces a difficult upcoming draw.
“Fifteen minutes of that second quarter we dropped right away and (West Coast) kicked six-one,” he said.
“(Darling) is a very good player, he’s an outstanding footballer… but our team, our defence, we started to drop away, we started to lose stoppage and giving him one-on-one opportunities.”
But Nicks said it was unfair to ask the Crows’ defenders to wear all the blame.
“We turned the footy over in spots it’s nearly impossible to defend, so we’re not going to put it all on our back six,” he said.
“That’s what good sides to do you… any time you drop away for five or 10 minutes you’re going to get punished and unfortunately that was today.”
Mistakes happen, recovery is key
Nicks said several missed opportunities in front of goal played a role in the Crows’ loss.
“That’s the hardest part to watch, as a group sitting on the sidelines, is when you miss set shots you should be putting away and see that the score should be much higher than what we’re kicking,” he said.
“Even late in the last quarter, we had a chance to go within three goals and we missed a snap from 10 metres out, dead in front."
The senior coach said as well as improving skills, effective recovery from errors under pressure would be a top priority for the side.
“We don’t don’t just look at the skill execution, we look at why, then, did it go the length of group and Darling kicks a goal at the other end,” he said.
“We’ve got to work on our ability to move on from the mistake, or the execution error, or the decision making error.”
But Nicks said there was a lot to like from the boys’ effort coming into the third term after Darling’s second quarter domination.
“That was another positive from today,” he said.
“You come in at half time, West Coast had all the momentum going in.
“For our guys to come back in and right the ship, get ourselves right back in it - we had our opportunities, we just didn’t complete it.
3. Rolling Fog, new role and tackling debutant
Nicks said there was a lot to like in young Crow Ronin O’Connor’s debut, while forward Darcy Fogarty and newly positioned Chayce Jones both performed well at AFL level.
“We’re an extremely young group,” Nicks said.
“We debuted (O’Connor) today and I thought he fought well, he battled inside.
“We limited his game - he only played 50 per cent but he had eight tackles.
“It’s a good sign for us, we may have found another on-baller for the future.”
Fogarty had a strong burst in the opening term and stormed through the Eagles pack in an impressive display of contest.
“We were really positive around Fog’s (Darcy Fogarty’s) game today,” Nicks said.
“Fog sort of had that forward line to himself at times and attacked the ball, showed some real polish with the footy and showed that he really wants to compete.”
Nicks also praised Jones, who landed a career-high 19 disposals in his return to the Crows’ AFL side at half back.
“Chayce Jones behind the footy today, that’s something else we’ve been looking at for him to step up to AFL level,” Nicks said.
“For him to be up to the speed, use the ball well and defend - there were some really positive signs.
4. Walker and McHenry aiming for Melbourne return
Nicks said Taylor Walker could return for the Crows’ home clash against Melbourne at Adelaide Oval next weekend after being managed for the Eagles game.
“The plan was always for him to be managed for this week. We looked at the start of the season at how we would look at the back half of the season,” he said.
“He’s been in some great form so we want to get him back in.”
“(I was) really pleased with how the forward line functioned today, but there’s no doubt Tex is our barometer back there.”
The senior coach was also hopeful Ned McHenry would be available for selection after suffering a concussion in the Round Eight Showdown.
“He’s working his way through (the AFL concussion protocols),” Nicks said.
“He has to tick off a number of boxes before he’s given the all-clear, but it’d be nice to get Ned back. He brings some speed and some pressure in that forward half.
5. Disappointment equals investment
Nicks said while the result was dejecting for the group, that showed how much they wanted to improve.
“The bit I love about our group is they’re pretty disappointed… we want to be more than just hard to play against,” he said.
“They’re all competitive, they get to where they’re at because of who they have been coming through as junior footballers.
“We don’t come here to finish second, we come here to win games of footy and today we had chances to do that.
“We’ve got a group that are invested in what we’re doing. They want to get themselves back on the winner’s board, so that’s our challenge.”