How the mighty Adelaide Crows have fallen.
In 2017, they were the team to beat.
Easily the best side over the home and away season, the Crows went on to claim the minor premiership and had a strong start to the final series, making the 2017 AFL grand final.
But that’s where the tide turned for the Crows.
They fell at the final hurdle to Richmond and shortly after, lost their way on a ‘cult like’ camp. Many have pointed the finger that this was the true turning point for the Adelaide Crows.
In March 2018, Fox Footy’s Tom Morris revealed the camp left many senior players at the club “shaken and frustrated”.
“The cause for concern centred on the emotional wellbeing of players, especially half-a-dozen or so senior members of the team… They were forced to adopt a mentality, described as ‘cult-like’ by one source,” he reported at the time.
“Players were asked not to talk about the specifics of the emotional hardships they were forced to endure.”
It was the beginning of the downfall for the Crows.
Over the last two seasons, we have watched the club unravel in front of our eyes and appear a shadow of the side dominating the competition not too long ago.
The second half of the 2019 season, which saw the Crows win just two games from nine starts, was the breaking point and spelt the end for coach Don Pyke.
And it’s been anything but smooth sailing in finding his replacement.
A four-man panel made up of Crows CEO Andrew Fagan and Football Director Mark Ricciuto former Crows player and assistant coach James Podsiadly, and four-time Olympian and championship winning basketball coach Phil Smyth have been left to decide the next coach of the club.
So far, former Crows star Ben Rutten has been tied into a succession plan at Essendon so he won’t be returning home for a magical reunion.
Last month, Fox Footy’s Tom Morris reported that former St Kilda and Freo coach Ross Lyon declined an offer from the Crows to apply for the senior coaching position.
He also reported that newly appointed Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir was encouraged to apply… clearly turned that one down.
Hawthorn assistant Adam Yze had an interview for the position last week before re-signing with the Hawks and reports have suggested Scott Burns is out of the race as well.
But is it an issue with the potential suitors, or the state of the football club?
Well, the number of departing players may shed some light on the situation.
Over the weekend, Cam Ellis-Yolmen was the first of potentially a number of dominos to fall.
It may not appear a big loss from the outside, but Ellis-Yolmen’s 2019 numbers were good and if he can stay fit he could be a dangerous addition to the Brisbane midfield.
From his ten games this season, he averaged 23.5 touches (12.3 contested), five clearances, 5.5 tackles, 23.5 pressure acts and 2.3 one percenters a game.
We’ve already seen what Brisbane has done to rejuvenate the careers of former Crow and Sun Jarryd Lyons, former Cat Lincoln McCarthy and former Blue Mitch Robinson.
Could Ellis-Yolmen be the next to revive his career up north?
Most of his key numbers were above average for 2019, so with a little bit of luck injury wise, there’s no reason why he can’t shine for the Lions.
And he may be the first of many to depart, with the likes of Alex Keath, Sam Jacobs, Hugh Greenwood, Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins all expected to follow in his footsteps and join (or re-join, in Eddie’s case) other clubs.
But it’s not all doom and gloom on-field for the Crows.
They remain strong at the core.
Captain Rory Sloane had another great season.
Tom Doedee will return from injury next season and slot straight back into defence for the Crows.
Talia is still rock solid down back, too for the Crows.
They have seen some promise in Fogarty.
Smith and Atkins say they’re committed.
There’s hope they may be able to retain both Crouch brothers and Rory Laird.
If they can just weather the storm a little and hold onto some of the pieces that can help them move forward as a club, there may be light on the other end if the tunnel.
But who takes them through that tunnel?
If the new senior coaches for 2020 are anything to go by, then the Crows should be looking for a great communicator.
The art of relationships and connecting with your players, coaches and staff alike is becoming the focus of AFL coaches these days.
Of course a good footy brain and tactician is important, but if you can’t communicate those game plans and messages… then what’s the point?
But more importantly… where is the senior coach?
At the Crows Club Champion awards late last week, Chairman Rob Chapman said a decision on their new senior coach was just around the corner.
“Within the next 14 days we will be making a series of major decisions, as both the review finalises and we appoint and announce the next Senior Coach of our Club.”
It’s great news for the club that they believe the search is nearly over, but with trade period officially commencing today, it’s going to be a fairly difficult task to lure in new players and attempt to cover the club’s losses without a senior coach to represent the club.
The timing could have and should have been better.
There’s no doubt Rory Sloane will play a huge role for the club as its representative over the coming weeks.
As will Tex Walker. Not as co-captain, but as a key figure and leader at the club.
But how can they pitch a vision and direction to new possible players without knowing what that vision is?
Of course the obvious goal is to win a third premiership.
And who is going to take them there?
Until they know who he is and how he is going to get them there, it’s a lot of pressure for the senior players to carry on their shoulders.
It won’t be much longer before a decision is made, but fact is that has probably already taken longer than it should have.
There should be a coach on deck to help build a list that will see the Crows succeed again in the future.
More importantly, who is he? And what is his direction?
Will it be enough to pick up the pieces and take the club forward once again?
There are so many questions surrounding the Crows at the moment.
Hopefully this off-season they can find some answers.