A COMMITMENT from Adelaide's players to remain in South Australia during the off-season and get a head start on 2021 has allowed the team to spend more time working on Matthew Nicks' game plan this summer.
The Crows are expected to reveal a more attacking game style in 2021 after clicking under Nicks in the final month of a last season, winning three of their final four games.
Football manager Adam Kelly said the work put in by Adelaide's players before the official return to training had allowed the team to move into match simulation work earlier than anticipated.
2021 FREE AGENTS Check out who is up for grabs
"The (pleasing) element of the off-season to date has been the broad improvement of the group and I think that extends from the commitment the players made to be around each other during the off-season," Kelly told AFL.com.au.
"The work they've put in as a group during that off-season period has provided the foundation for what has been an escalation in the volume of work that we've been able to do, particularly with the entry into the football component of the program and match simulation a lot earlier than what would normally be the case."
Nicks this week spoke about his plans for the team, telling the club's website: "We like to attack, we like to take the game on in offence and some of the new rules are going to hopefully help out in that area … we'll see a slightly more attacking game plan".
The coach arrived with a game plan that "revolves around contest" and his team won both the contested possession and clearance counts in each of their final four games, by an average of 16.8 and 4.0 respectively.
While the Crows had young players learning on the run in 2020 as Nicks implemented his style, another pre-season under the coach has seen the young group progress and set standards in training.
CIRCLE THEM IN YOUR CALENDAR The 20 matches of 2021 you won't want to miss
"Because we've got such a young group – and we believe we're going to head into 2021 with the youngest list in the AFL – what we're seeing is the forming of some really strong relationships," Kelly said.
"We're certainly seeing the players enjoy the environment and they like to be around the footy club.
"The maintaining of elite standards and professionalism (has been) from our very best players, like (Rory) Sloane and (Brodie) Smith and (Rory) Laird, extending to those who are in their very first pre-season and are showing an appetite for the work and a thirst to get better.
"That's been the most pleasing element, that group buy-in to that training culture."
The Crows made key additions to Nicks' off-field team at the end of 2020, with assistant coaches Scott Burns (from Hawthorn), Nathan van Berlo (West Coast) and James Rahilly (Geelong) making a quick impact.
Marco Bello also crossed from the Hawks to be Adelaide's new head of development.
"There's a significant change in our coaching and those guys have confirmed the reasons for their reputations in the industry as quality people and highly competent coaches," Kelly said.
"We're really pleased with what they're delivering our program and we're really pleased with their experience and they're bringing great insights from other strong football programs."
Young forward Darcy Fogarty has been a standout in training, while wingman Lachlan Sholl has blitzed the Crows' running trials.
"Beyond that, Jordon Butts, Lachie Gollant, Jackson Hately, Ronin O'Connor, Harry Schoenberg, they all deserve some acknowledgement for the big steps they've taken forward in this off-season," Kelly said.
"These younger players, with every off-season they do they’ve got a progressive understanding of what's required to make it in the game.
"And these guys are certainly showing they understand that."