Adelaide’s 2017 finals campaign has been imperious, and now the grand final awaits. (AAP: Tracey Nearmy)
A painful 2016 finals loss to the Sydney Swans has proven the driving force behind the Adelaide Crows’ charge to this year’s grand final, according to defender Daniel Talia.
Talia spoke to ABC the day after the Crows’ big 61-point win over Geelong that put them in the club’s first grand final in 19 years.
Facing Sydney in a cut-throat semi-final at the SCG last September, the Crows were overwhelmed in the opening quarter as the Swans got the jump, kicking seven goals to three on their way to a 36-point victory.
“We got back to the preseason and we were made to watch that first quarter and the difference between being out there and actually winning the contest,” Talia said.
“We saw some pretty raw vision of how Sydney beat us up around the ball. The coaches were pretty clear on how they wanted us to improve, and it was based around just winning the little contests and the fundamentals of the game.
“That’s certainly where we’ve improved this year and I think a lot of guys seeing that vision were almost scarred by it, and that’s what’s driven us all year.”
The Crows have gone through big changes in the last few years, with the movement of key players like Kurt Tippett, Jack Gunston and Patrick Dangerfield, and the emotional impact of the deaths of former coach Dean Bailey and Phil Walsh before the arrival of Don Pyke as the man in charge at West Lakes.
The lessons learned in a tough finals loss at the SCG last year have paid dividends for the Crows in 2017. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
“The last couple of years we obviously haven’t been the most stable of groups and with everything that’s happened, Dean Bailey passing away and then [Phil Walsh] rocking the whole group, I think it took a while for us to reset and really gel again,” Talia said.
“That really brought us closer as a group and we’ve been building the last two or three years but just haven’t been around the mark around our contests and the centre of the ground.
“This year we’ve taken that next step — we’ve been playing together for a while and we feel like we’re ready to go all the way.”
There was a feeling at the Crows that the club was hitting the right point of the curve to make a challenge, according to Talia.
“I think our list profile’s just about at the right age, all our leaders have been in there for four or five years, and we’re in that 26, 27-year-old age bracket and have played together for about 100 games now,” he said.
“The same goes for down back, we’ve had the same group of six or seven guys — obviously with Brodie Smith going out we’ve had to put someone else back there but it’s been the same group.
“And in midfield with the Crouch brothers and Sloanie starting to hit their straps. We’ve always had a dangerous forward line as well.”
The Crows will face the winner of Saturday’s preliminary final between Richmond and GWS at the MCG next weekend.