Matthew Nicks with Adelaide players during their 2024 team photo day at West Lakes. Picture: AFL Photos

A LESSON from the New Zealand All-Blacks about knowing who you are and taking that everywhere you travel will form part of Adelaide's quest to perform better on the road in 2024 after a costly 2-8 return away from Adelaide Oval last season. 

The Crows start their season at Gold Coast's People First Stadium on Saturday night and have tricky road assignments against Fremantle and Carlton in their first five weeks as they look to break through for their first finals appearance under Matthew Nicks. 

Their record away from Adelaide Oval was a topic of discussion when Nicks and football manager Adam Kelly spent time with New Zealand Rugby's coaching team in the off-season, learning among other things how the national team travels successfully. 

"We definitely came back with a lot of little gold nuggets that we'll use going forward, and the biggest one overall was knowing who you are," Nicks told

"I know that's very broad, but when you talk about the All Blacks or New Zealand Rugby, the understanding of their history and the Māori and who they are as people, they take it everywhere with them.

"They travel around the world and play, but they take that ownership of who they are and what they represent with them.

Josh Rachele, Rory Laird and Izak Rankine look dejected after Adelaide's loss to Essendon at Marvel Stadium in round 17, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"We talked about last year our inability to win on the road, [and] we're not putting it all down to the fact we maybe didn't know who we were, but we'll use something similar to really try and get in touch with our history as a footy club and as a state."

The Crows' trip to Wellington was arranged by former New Zealand Cricket coach Ashley Ross, who now works with the Crows as a coach development manager, providing a different perspective for Nicks and his team of assistants. 

Nicks said it had been helpful to have a non-football voice among the group to challenge their ways of thinking and open their eyes to different ways of coaching. 


Asked about the balance of staying true to your beliefs as a coach but adapting to what the competition demands, Nicks said: "You've got to be careful that you don't get stuck in your own way.

"You've got a story, and your story is always the right one if you're not careful, because it's just what you believe. So, I've done a lot of work on trying to come out of things and have a look at it from another perspective."

Nicks was with his wife in the MCG stands to watch Collingwood's Grand Final win against Brisbane last year, enjoying the contest early but growing frustrated in the second half that it would be 12 months before Adelaide had a shot at being on the same stage. 

The coach said he had learned from more than just the Magpies when watching the finals series. 

"There are a couple of things that Brisbane did too … and 'Fages' (coach Chris Fagan) got them going so well," Nicks said.

Matthew Nicks speaks to Chris Fagan during Adelaide's clash against Brisbane in round 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"Bounce of the ball, a bit of luck, and who knows, we're talking about Brisbane and everyone's modelling their game on Brisbane.

"We've looked at both sides. In fact, we've looked at GWS, what 'Kingers' (Adam Kingsley) has been able to do there in a short period of time, and we're constantly analysing the best and taking what we can.

"We'll be doing that for hopefully the next 10 years."

A strength of Collingwood's that the Crows are trying to build using their own analytics is what Nicks calls "cohesion" – essentially the number of games two players have played alongside each other and the on-field connection that follows as that number grows. 

Using the example of Collingwood premiership pair Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom, who have played 288 games alongside each other, Nicks hopes that as the Crows' cohesion grows, so will their prospects of a sustained period of success. 

Steele Sidebottom and Scott Pendlebury celebrate a goal during Collingwood's win over Brisbane in the 2023 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

"Our list management guys and footy strategy have been doing this for a long time … so we don't lose our way and we stay on track with what it is we're trying to build here," the coach said.  

"We're trying to build sustained success, not just a premiership out of nowhere, and we want to continue to be up the top of the ladder. Cohesion is really important to that, so you've got to be patient. 

"I think last year we were able to put out a brand of footy because of the work we've done in this space where our guys knew and they played a brand together. 

"We didn't win enough games and we've got to be better and we've got to improve. But I think our supporters were proud of what they saw."