Crows AFL 97-98 premiership teams
There are 27 Adelaide premiership players from the club’s triumphant 1997 and 1998 AFL campaigns but both winning teams were shaped by setbacks, heartbreak and opportunity.
Sixteen Crows played in both grand finals, five featured only in the first win, and six more joined the premiership club in 1998.
Every player has a story, including some who did not receive a premiership medal. There was room for only 21 players when Adelaide finalised its team to represent the club in its first AFL grand final against St Kilda. Cruelly, Adelaide’s two 1997 All-Australians – Mark Ricciuto and Tony Modra – missed with serious injuries.
Ricciuto’s brilliant season faded and then finished earlier in September after desperate efforts to overcome a groin injury ended in surgery. And Modra’s left knee collapsed in the preliminary final, leaving the 1997 Coleman Medallist with 84 goals from 25 games for the season.
There was plenty more selection drama. Young forward Peter Vardy had played every game in the season when he broke a collarbone in the second semi-final. Matthew Liptak, the 1996 Club Champion, tore a hamstring during the minor round after playing seven games and then was on crutches with an Achilles tendon injury.
Simon Tregenza, who had returned from a knee reconstruction to play ten AFL games at the start of the season, battled a hamstring issue then strained a calf returning in the SANFL at the minor round.
Trent Ormond-Allen played 18 games that season, including the preliminary final. He had his jaw broken behind play late in the season, returned in time to play two finals, and then missed the grand final after being diagnosed with glandular fever.
Others were more fortunate with their timing.
Tyson Edwards was recalled for the last minor round game, then dropped for first final, was a late call-up when Ricciuto pulled out of first qualifying final, dropped again the next week but returned to replace Vardy in the preliminary final and held his spot.
First-year defender Simon Goodwin overcame leg injuries to win his spot back for the finals and ruckman Aaron Keating took his chance after David Pittman copped a one week ban from the second semi-final. Keating had not played in the AFL since fracturing his pelvis when making his debut in the opening game of the season.
Two forced changes were made for the grand final, with Modra and Ormond-Allen out. Pittman returned, Keating held his spot for his third AFL game and Brett James was included for the first time in the finals, after 17 AFL appearances during the minor round. James had moved back to South Australia for the 1997 season after 42 games with Collingwood.
Darren Jarman, who played in Hawthorn’s 1991 premiership team before a trade back to South Australia at the end of 1995, was the most experienced player in the grand final team.
Captain Mark Bickley (144 games), Nigel Smart (142), Rod Jameson (132), David Pittman (98), Ben Hart (133) and Shaun Rehn (92) were on Adelaide’s foundation list in 1991 but half the team had been recruited in the previous two years.
Kym Koster (Footscray), Clay Sampson (Melboune), Troy Bond (Carlton) and Matthew Robran (Hawthorn) all returned to South Australia in earlier seasons, and Peter Caven (Sydney), Shane Ellen (Footscray) and Matt Connell (West Coast) were recruited from AFL rivals.
Andrew McLeod, 21 in August that year, and impressive 19-year-old Victorian draftee Kane Johnson were regular contributors, and mature-age draftee Chad Rintoul, from East Fremantle, was also named for his 11th game.
Brett Chalmers, Barry Standfield and Tregenza were listed as the emergencies in the grand final. Chalmers had played in the last minor round game against Essendon but lost his spot for the finals while Standfield kicked five goals on debut for the Crows after switching from Footscray but did not play after round 16.
There were more injuries, big decisions and close calls in 1998, when Adelaide coach Malcolm Blight questioned if the team had the match hardness to push through another tough finals campaign.
Vardy nearly missed another grand final because of a heel injury but he was nursed through the finals and showed his value with six goals in the semi-final win against Sydney in the wet at the SCG.
Ricciuto’s surgery was successful and he helped drive performances through the season.
Other newcomers were James Thiessen, drafted from Norwood as a mature ager, first-year Crows Andrew Eccles and Ben Marsh, and Mark Stevens, traded from North Melbourne in deal that sent Jason McCartney to North. Eccles thought his chance had slipped away when he strained a hamstring late in the minor round but after playing for Norwood’s reserves he was recalled for the preliminary final.
Marsh, upgraded from the rookie list mid-year, had been squeezed out of the side for the preliminary final but returned for the decider when Blight wanted an extra tall option.
Missing from the first flag side were Bond (shoulder), Jameson (calf), Sampson, Keating and Rintoul, who sat on the bench in the preliminary final.
Johnson was one of the lucky ones. He had a run of leg injuries throughout 1998, did not play consecutive AFL games and missed the first two finals before being picked for the preliminary final.
Others were not so blessed.
Modra’s return from a knee reconstruction was challenging. He kicked 19 goals in eight AFL games but was sensationally dropped after kicking one goal in the qualifying final loss to Melbourne. It was his last game for the Crows.
Liptak played in the first final – only his second AFL game of the season – but suffered another hamstring injury and Linden Stevens, who made his AFL debut in the last round, was also cut after the loss at the MCG.
Nathan Bassett, traded to the Crows from Melbourne, played 13 AFL games in his first season but had his chances dashed by a shoulder injury.
Ormond-Allen played 15 AFL games in 1998 but missed out late in the season and was an emergency for the grand final, along with Rintoul and Keating.
CROWS AFL PREMIERSHIP PLAYERS
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