LET'S not sugar-coat it: Adelaide had the worst season of its history, claiming its first wooden spoon and enduring a 13-game losing streak to start the season. In fact, the Crows went more than 12 months without a victory after also losing their last three games of 2019.
It was an ultra-difficult beginning for new coach Matthew Nicks as the club reset its focus and engineered a full rebuild after moving on a group of experienced players at the end of last year.
Heavy defeats to Port Adelaide, Gold Coast, Brisbane, North Melbourne, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs set back confidence in the long-term plan but the fruits of the season came late, with the Crows breaking their duck in round 15 against Hawthorn and then winning the next two games against Greater Western Sydney and Carlton. Only percentage separated them from the 17th-placed Kangaroos by the end of the season.
Feeding the young Crows games was a big part of this season and the rewards were felt later in the year. Shane McAdam, Fischer McAsey, Ned McHenry, Will Hamill, Harry Schoenberg, Jordon Butts, Lachie Sholl and Andrew McPherson were among the debutants this season and each showed something to suggest they can be a part of the Crows longer-term. Chayce Jones also produced some exciting moments as did Elliott Himmelberg in attack. Adelaide made the most of its time at the bottom and blooded as many new faces as possible.
The Crows midfield struggles was a central factor to their battling form for most of the year. Injuries to Rory Sloane and Brad Crouch at different stages didn't help, but Matt Crouch was dropped at one stage and they simply didn't have the depth in that area of the ground to compete for long enough in games. The addition of Rory Laird to that part of the ground helped add some power and burst later in the season.
Reilly O'Brien's consistency in the ruck this season made him one of the Crows' best players for 2020. O'Brien was in the top five in the competition for hitouts and hitouts to advantage and played every game this season and shouldered the load alone for a lot of it. While his season may be best remembered for his accidental trash-talk tweet to West Coast adversary Nic Naitanui, O'Brien deserves credit for his performances.
Ben Keays came to the Crows after as a rookie pick after being delisted by Brisbane last year but the midfielder surpassed expectations. Keays has missed only two games this year and averaged 17 disposals, proving himself as a steady ball-getter and playing some strong run-with roles against the opposition's best midfielders. His year deserves to be rewarded with a contract extension.
Wayne Milera's class and poise were sorely missed since round two, when he went down with a season-ending foot injury. He underwent surgery in June and didn't play again but looms as something of a new recruit next year for Nicks. He is signed to the club through to the end of 2025.
The win over the Giants was certainly the best moment of Adelaide's season. Facing up against last year's Grand Finalists in round 16, who were still eyeing a finals position, the Crows jumped them early and held control of the game throughout the contest to run out 12-point winners at Adelaide Oval. McAdam's two goals and flying grab excited plenty of home-crowd fans.
The 18th-placed Crows met the 17th-placed North Melbourne in round nine and the Kangaroos won by 69 points in an absolute drubbing. It came after an encouraging display the previous week but Adelaide travelled to Metricon Stadium and was walloped so badly that after the game Nicks apologised to supporters.
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The Crows are clearly prioritising the draft in year two of their aggressive rebuild. They have the No.1 pick and are likely to weigh up one of the tall forwards – Logan McDonald and Riley Thilthorpe – and midfielder Elijah Hollands. They also have the Giants' first-round selection and could hold another if Brad Crouch leaves and his free agency compensation is high, while they will get a pick in for Rory Atkins' free agency move to Gold Coast. Richmond midfielder Jack Graham has been linked to the Crows.
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Early call for 2021
McAdam to become one of the most exciting small forwards in the game. He showed snippets this year, but after the experiences the 25-year-old has gained this season, 2021 looms as a breakout campaign for the Crows goalkicker.
D. A promising end to the season came after a horror start which saw the Crows fall deeper down the ladder than they would have hoped.