EMBATTLED Adelaide coach Don Pyke does not believe his side needs to go backwards before returning to the top of the AFL mountain.
Pyke's Crows had only the slimmest of chances of making the finals when they arrived in Ballarat on Sunday, but the Western Bulldogs kicked the first six goals to effectively kill the contest.
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They have now missed the finals in consecutive disappointing campaigns since losing the 2017 Grand Final to Richmond as the competition's minor premier.
There are set to be significant changes to Adelaide's playing list, with Richard Douglas and Andy Otten already having made their final appearance for the club.
Sam Jacobs, Hugh Greenwood, Eddie Betts, Alex Keath, Riley Knight, David Mackay, Josh Jenkins – who wasn't selected for Sunday's flattering 34-point loss – and the injured Cam Ellis-Yolmen are all still making their minds up.
"I've never been a real believer in windows and bits and pieces," Pyke said post-game.
"We saw, even in the last couple of weeks, with the introduction of (Darcy) Fogarty (and) you see (Chayce) Jones today take a real step forward.
"We've got some talent on our list and now it's about getting the right blend and balance around our senior players, and how we evolve from here.
"There are going to be some good discussions around what that looks like, in terms of 'What does our team look like in round one next year' and 'How are we going to play?', then 'How are we going to train that?'.
"The reality is we finished earlier than we wanted to and that's disappointing but ultimately you finish where you finish for a reason and we've got some work to do."
What role the uncertainty about the futures of so many different players played in the Crows losing seven of their last nine games was something Pyke couldn't answer.
However, he did concede it was "always a challenge" to maintain a positive club environment when the defeats were piling up and they weren't playing as they wanted to.
The coaching staff tried to tap into the sentiment around Douglas and Otten, who also didn't play, but Pyke said he was wary of how having little to play for would impact on his group.
"Obviously the result last night (Hawthorn beating West Coast) made it very difficult to push on and play finals but we wanted to finish the season better than that," he said.
"It was always an unknown today, with how the group was going to come out.
"We gave them a six-goal start before we got close to going, but to our guys' credit, they fought it out really well … but it's still a disappointing way to finish what's been a pretty disappointing season."
Pyke still has two more seasons on his contract, after signing an extension in January 2018, before things went awry on field.
He understands why there is scrutiny on his position – at least externally, and most likely internally – given it's a "win-loss industry".
"We haven't performed and ultimately I sit where I sit to take accountability and responsibility for that," Pyke said.
"There's a whole myriad of reasons but, for me, yeah, it's reality.
"I'm not sitting at a footy club where I question the people we have. We have some high-quality people .. (and) we've all got good ideas – players, high performance staff, coaching staff.
"We've got to get all those on the table, have a conversation and say, 'Right, which direction are we going to go?' and we'll be clear when we take that direction, things will change."