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New direction

Harry Thring  September 25, 2012 1:03 PM


Patrick Dangerfield came of age in 2012

1. Sando's a hit
Brenton Sanderson started 2012 as an untried coach, but in just one season he has become the club's most adored mentor since Malcolm Blight. His positivity and infectious enthusiasm (mixed with Adelaide's on-field success) saw him embraced by the public, as well as the playing group. While players appeared bored at times under Neil Craig, they said they could relate to the 38-year-old Sanderson and his tenure at West Lakes could become a long and fruitful one.

2. The mullet is the answer
Looking back, 2012 could well be remembered as the season Walker came of age. The 22-year-old enjoyed the most prolific goal-kicking season of his career (63 goals) and finally found the confidence, as well as the defensive side to his game, that had been missing under Craig. Fans have been crying out for a forward-line superhero to worship ever since Tony Modra was traded to Fremantle at the end of 1998. With his big frame, flowing mullet and ability to dominate opposition defenses, Walker is that hero.

3. The Crows midfield has some magic
Patrick Dangerfield emerged as one of the game's stars in 2012, but he received fantastic support from fellow 22-year-old guns Rory Sloane and Matthew Wright, as well as 24-year-old ruckman Sam Jacobs. Scott Thompson still has several years left in him, while Bernie Vince, Richard Douglas and Nathan van Berlo are beginning to peak. Add David Mackay (24) and Brad Crouch (18) into the mix and Adelaide looks set to remain a midfield monster for years to come.

4. Tippett headed into unknown territory
Kurt Tippett entered what AFL medical expert Dr Peter Larkins described as "unknown territory" when he was concussed three times in four games during the season. Amid evidence of frightening long-term effects found in concussed former NFL players, Tippett was treated with the utmost caution in his recovery, but didn't really come good until the preliminary final when he booted four goals. In between that game and his comeback from concussion, Tippett averaged fewer than five marks and just a goal a game.

5. Mud sticks
Adelaide didn't hesitate to insist on the resignation of recruiting chief Matthew Rendell when he became the centre of a racism controversy. He reportedly told AFL community engagement manager Jason Mifsud in March that he would be reluctant to draft an indigenous player unless they had one white parent. Rendell claimed he had been taken entirely out of context and his comments were merely a could-be, worst-case scenario if certain issues were not addressed. He maintained he was no racist, but conceded "mud sticks" and resigned.

6. The Crows have reason to believe
After finishing 14th last year, few gave the Crows any chance of threatening in 2012. The players said Sanderson proclaimed his belief in the group soon after his appointment as coach and an unshakable inner belief has burned since. The side came from behind to win on several occasions this year, as good sides inevitably do, and very nearly knocked flag favourites Hawthorn out of the race in the preliminary final. This Adelaide unit is one with real character.

7. The team became hard as nails
Upon arriving at West Lakes, Sanderson promptly discarded with Neil Craig's famed exercise bikes and insisted on a pre-season full of wrestling and boxing. The players bulked up significantly and enabled Sanderson to implement a game-style with a strong focus on winning the hard ball. The Crows became the number two contested possession side in the competition behind the Sydney Swans.

8. Sam Jacobs is a rare ruckman
Sam Jacobs was well down the pecking order at Carlton, unable to make it past Robbie Warnock, Shaun Hampson and Matthew Kreuzer. Since being traded to Adelaide though, Jacobs has developed into one of the most dominant ruckmen in the competition. He led the AFL in hit-outs to advantage this year and was desperately unlucky to be overlooked for All Australian selection. With another pre-season under his belt, Jacobs will form a crucial part of Adelaide's 2013 campaign.

9. The SANFL is a source of frustration
Brenton Sanderson made it perfectly clear this season - he wants his own reserves side. The coach is the latest in South Australia forced to endure the frustration of watching his unselected players corrupted by foreign systems in the SANFL. While Queensland, New South Wales and most Victorian-based AFL sides have their own reserves teams in which they can develop players to their liking, unselected players in South Australia must play for another team in the SANFL. If Sanderson gets his way, they won't have to for long.

10. Talia's star is rising
Adelaide's defence loomed as its weakest link at the start of the season, but the emergence of young defenders Daniel Talia (20) and Sam Shaw (21) meant it stayed sound. Talia in particular shone bright. He claimed scalp after scalp throughout the season, beating the likes of Nick Riewoldt, Drew Petrie, Jack Riewoldt and Jack Darling. He was awarded the club's first NAB AFL Rising Star Award, before unluckily breaking his arm in the qualifying final.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs.