Crows great: Patience with Nicks will be rewarded in 2023

    Before he was appointed as Adelaide’s ninth senior coach none of his predecessors had gone two years without making finals and remained in their role at West Lakes. The 2023 season will be Nicks’ fourth season at the Crows and to date his 14th placed finish in 2022 is his best return so far. So what will be a pass mark for Nicks in his fourth season, and what will satisfy the Crows faithful? For a club that hasn’t really ever “bottomed out” the Crows fans have been pretty patient with the side over the past couple of years, despite claiming their first wooden spoon in 2020.But the only man to bring AFL premiership glory to West Lakes, Malcolm Blight, said their patience might soon be rewarded.“The thing with the Crows, if you look at nearly everyone who has bottomed out – and everyone has in the existence of the AFL except Geelong – what it does it takes three or four years to start the swing back,” he told News Corp.“You just need to get a number of draft picks (in the door).“If you can get those picks in the top 30, that first round and a half in drafts. It just seems to me if you can net a number of those it is really big.“All you need is five (really good) players over a period of those three to four years, if they are the right ones they drive you to the top four and games are on again and you can hopefully win one.“Recruiting and drafting has become so much better by clubs so it will take you three or four years before you get going again.”By Blight’s logic the Crows should be right at this stage going into 2023.They stripped their list back drastically and heavily invested in the draft.Since Don Pyke resigned from the senior coaching role at West Lakes Adelaide has brought in Fischer McAsey (Pick 6), Harry Schoenberg (Pick 24), Josh Worrell (Pick 28), Riley Thilthorpe (Pick 2), Luke Pedlar (Pick 11), Brayden Cook (Pick 25), Sam Berry (Pick 28) and Josh Rachele (Pick 6) in the top 30.That is in addition to the already existing Darcy Fogarty (Pick 12), Chayce Jones (Pick 9), Ned McHenry (Pick 16) and Will Hamill (Pick 30).The third pick of the 2018 draft Izak Rankine is also now at the Crows.Berry and Thilthorpe have become key members of the side, Rachele thrilled at the start of his career before fading in his debut season, Schoenberg had a stellar end to 2021 and fought back in 2022 after an inconsistent start to the season.And this doesn’t even take into account Jake Soligo (Pick 36) who emerged as an absolute steal for the Crows in 2022.Worell started to emerge at the end of the 2022 season, Cook is seen as a raw prospect while Pedlar has had to battle injuries.McAsey hasn’t played an AFL game since 2020, so he will be one to watch in 2023.When asked what should be the goal for the Crows in 2023, Blight said it was a hard one.“I always have been pretty keen on percentage,” he said.“If you look at Collingwood this year and what they did and how many close games they had, they finished top four but did they really? Not really (they had the lowest percentage of the top eight) and then they got knocked out of a final by a small amount.“So anywhere between seven and 11 (wins for the Crows) the percentage should be better.“If they get to 12 then they should probably be at the bottom of the eight and that would be the development.“That is how it usually goes, there are some outliers, but the draft picks keep adding up and the guys doing it these days do a lot of work.“And then you get one or two at pick 40 or pick 50, I get that but it is really those top round and a half that eventually get you there.“They (the Crows) have … It is an accumulation and then hopefully the guys you get in your midfield can make those really smart decisions with the ball.“And that is when you look at the premiership teams, you look at those three or four or five who go through the midfield, they can get first opportunity and really set the game up a bit.”After eight wins in 2022, Crows fans will be looking for at least that in 2023.But if the Crows don’t show improvement, then some interesting conversations might take place.Blight said this improvement needed to be driven by the younger players at the Crows.“I think as the year went on the Rachele, Soligio, Berry looked like he could be a good midfielder, I think it will be that group,” he said.“(Taylor) Walker had a good year, Lairdy (Rory Laird) had a good year, those older players are doing what we expect now.“It is up to those youngsters and how quickly can they improve next year and I can tell you going from a third to a fourth pre-season sometimes people do mushroom as I call it, they just sprout up.” Nicks signed a contract extension until the end of the 2024 season less than a year ago.Crows bosses have been steadfast in their backing of Nicks, saying he will be the man to bring success back to the club.After being labelled “the least supported coach in Adelaide history” in his first season, with a threadbare coaching staff the Crows have significantly beefed up Nicks’ supporting cast.Scott Burns, Nathan van Berlo, James Rahilly have all come in as line coaches, while the highly revered fitness guru Darren Burgess is at West Lakes.This experience has allowed Nicks to move down the bench on game days, which coincided with an improved run by the Crows in 2022 after they were in what Nicks conceded was a “rut”.Adelaide captain Rory Sloane, who was able to observe Nicks closely in 2022 after his season ending ACL injury in Round 5 said he was a big fan of the change.“I loved when he was on the bench, it gave him a real feel of how players were feeling coming off and he was able to grab guys pretty quickly,” he said.“He sees the game so well so passing on that knowledge straight away is huge.”Nicks has changed one big part of how he goes about things on game day, could a change come for the Crows game plan in 2023?He has often spoken about how the Crows “DNA” is seeking out the contest.And for much of the season this has been evident in the Crows, who rarely didn’t turn up in that regard.But what was also evident at times was they lacked a bit of class when moving the footy, outside of Jordan Dawson, Brodie Smith and Soligo.Rankine significantly boosts the Crows attacking arsenal, as does a fit Rachele after he faded following his red-hot start.Blight said like nearly every team in the competition, he would like to see more of an emphasis on attack from the Crows.“This is a general statement, not just the Adelaide Crows,” he said.“I just figured, and Craig McRae maybe had a lucky season in his first year but I thought he tried to win the game and not defend the game more often than not.“I still think there is this residue of team defence, which is fine you are going to need it, but to actually make the effort to actually say if we didn’t miss that kick there which was going forward we would be better off.“So that balance of which do you pull up, the error or team defence, and that is a constant battle for all coaches now.“I tend to find that they all coach very similarly, whether it be plus one behind the ball or plus one at the ball.“There’s not too much difference in that, there’s other things you can do. You can change your forward line and backline.“Do you use a midfielder or a ruckman playing kick behind the game like the game had for 100 years beforehand?There’s always been someone trying to get free in our game, and they are still fighting when do you pull it, how do you pull it and that’s why you keep your job or don’t sometimes.”

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