Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The first team in the spotlight is Adelaide.
- Ladder position: 11th
- Win-loss ratio: 10-12
- Percentage: 100.9
Adelaide Football Club AFL 2019 Season
After missing the finals in 2018 following their grand final defeat in 2017, the Crows were tipped to bounce back strongly. Don Pyke’s men won just 10 matches, though, and the club’s failure to reach September led to a significant clear-out of players and a change in coach. Adelaide dropped three of their first four matches, including their first two at Adelaide Oval, but a run of four successive wins boosted confidence. A three-game win streak from Round 11 to Round 13 also raised spirits, particularly after a win against Richmond. But Adelaide were, ultimately, far too inconsistent throughout the season and lost five of their last six, prompting Pyke’s decision to step down as senior coach. He has been replaced by former Sydney midfielder Matthew Nicks, a former assistant coach at both Port Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney.
Richmond may have been without a few of their star names but the Crows showed plenty of resolve to come from behind and beat the eventual premiers by 33 points at the Adelaide Oval in Round 13. The Crows kicked 12 goals to four in the second half against a Tigers side who continually showed how good their depth was in 2019. Brothers Brad and Matt Crouch were immense in the midfield, winning 43 and 35 disposals respectively, while Rory Laird was also prolific across half-back. Josh Jenkins kicked four goals and Taylor Walker added three, with all of the Crows’ big names contributing. It was something that did not happen enough in 2019.
Adelaide lost six matches at the Adelaide Oval in 2019, but none were worse than a 57-point defeat to local rivals Port Adelaide in Round 16. The Crows won the earlier Showdown by 20 points in Round 7 and would have been in front at half time if they were more accurate in front of goal. Adelaide kicked 4.11 to the main break and the Power were just three points in front. Everything changed in the second half, the Crows managing just four scoring shots – one of which was a goal – once play resumed. The Power ran riot, adding nine goals in the same period, as Tom Rockliff, Robbie Gray, Ollie Wines and Darcy Byrne-Jones all produced big numbers. The fade-out was disappointing and summed up Adelaide’s season.
The best and fairest
Brad Crouch won the Malcolm Blight Medal for the first time in his career, the midfielder edging Rory Sloane for the award. Crouch did not play in 2018 due to injury but did not miss a match in 2019, averaging 30.2 disposals per game. He finished five votes ahead of Sloane, while 2018 winner Rory Laird was a further 12 votes adrift in third. Matt Crouch and Brodie Smith were fourth and fifth respectively.
The vote getters
Brad Crouch was the only Adelaide player to poll in double figures at the 2019 Brownlow Medal, the ball-winner winning 14 votes at the count. That saw him finish in a tie for 21st, while Matt Crouch won eight votes. Sloane got seven, while defender Alex Keath and forward Eddie Betts, who both left the club in the off-season, polled six and five votes respectively.
Just one Crow was named in the provisional 40-man squad, with defender Daniel Talia rewarded for a strong year in defence. Talia – an All-Australian in both 2014 and 2016 – did not make the final 22.
The goal kickers
Walker kicked 43.22 from 22 matches – a good return from a player who has his share of critics. Betts ended a glorious stint in Adelaide with 37 goals from 21 matches, but the Crows’ forward line failed to fire on a regular basis in 2019. Jenkins – another allowed to leave – kicked 22 goals but played only 11 games as he battled to keep his spot.
The reason to be hopeful
A midfield containing the Crouch brothers and Sloane should give the Crows plenty of chances to win the midfield battle. Youngster Chayce Jones looked a likely type in 2019 and more improvement is likely, while Fischer McAsey, Harry Schoenberg and Josh Worrell were all taken in the first 30 picks of the 2019 draft and are all tipped for big things. The club’s well-documented decision to move on some experienced names in the trade period will provide more opportunities for fringe players, too. Adelaide’s improvement may depend on youngsters taking those chances.