1991-1996 – Finding our feet
In 1991, Adelaide entered the AFL as the 15th team in the competition. The Crows were brimming with experience under the guidance of inaugural coach Graham Cornes and captain Chris McDermott, but the team had been together for just a few months. On a historic day in March, Adelaide defeated Hawthorn by 86-points at Football Park in their debut match to prove they would be a competitive unit. The Crows finished ninth in the first two seasons, before making the finals for the first time in 1993 after Tony Modra kicked a club record 129 goals. They lost a preliminary final to the eventual premiers, Essendon. Adelaide finished 11th in 1994 and 1995 and 12th in 1996.
1997-1998 – The premiership years
1997 and 1998 are two years that Adelaide fans will never forget. On both occasions, Adelaide did it the hard way – finishing fourth in 1997 and fifth in 1998 under the old McIntyre Finals system. In 1997, they had to win four straight finals to earn the flag, but it was even harder in 1998 after losing their first final and having to win the next three. Yet, on that fateful day in September, it was the Pride of South Australia who lifted the AFL’s greatest prize. Under coach Malcolm Blight and captain Mark Bickley, Adelaide went back-to-back – beating St Kilda by 31-points in 1997 and North Melbourne a year later by 35-points. Midfielder Andrew McLeod made history as the only back-to-back Norm Smith Medallist.
1999-2003 – Ricciuto leads the way
The post-premiership years were relatively quiet as the Crows battled back into finals, not playing in September again until 2001 when the finished eighth. They also made finals in 2003 after finishing sixth, but were eliminated in the semi-finals. The 2000s were a challenging decade, but with a core group of elite players, the club was in safe hands. In 2003, Adelaide’s captain from 2001-2007 Mark Ricciuto truly led from the front – etching his name in history as the Club’s first Brownlow Medallist.
2004-2009 – A consistent finals presence
Also known as the Neil Craig era, Adelaide was consistently in the top eight throughout the decade, only missing finals footy once. After a lean year in 2004, finishing 12th, the Crows secured their first minor premiership in 2005. They were knocked out by West Coast in the preliminary final, which started a rivalry between the two clubs. Adelaide placed second on the ladder in 2006 but was once again knocked out by the Eagles in a home prelim final. Adelaide made the finals in the next three years, but were knocked out in the first or second weeks, twice by less than a goal in heart-stopping finishes.
2010-2014 – Retirements bring changing of the guard
A raft of retirements in 2010 led to a new-look Crows outfit for the new decade. It was a tough first few years, finishing 11th in 2010 and 14th in 2011. Then, in 2011, Neil Craig resigned, and it truly was a changing of the guard for the Club. They bounced back in 2012, finishing second on the ladder and playing in a preliminary final, before losing to Hawthorn by less than a goal. Key defender Daniel Talia won the AFL Rising Star Award in 2012, the first Crow to do so. In 2013 and 2014, the Crows narrowly missed finals. 2014 was the first year the club played at their new home ground, with footy moving into the city to Adelaide Oval.
2015 – Vale Phil Walsh
After a long coaching apprenticeship with multiple AFL clubs across the country, Phil Walsh was named Adelaide’s senior coach ahead of the 2015 season. He had an immediate impact, but tragically only coached the team for half a season. The death of Walsh in July was a loss felt across the entire AFL. The city was united as the competition stood in silence. The resilient playing squad regrouped and went on to play finals.
2016-Present – Grand final return heralds new era
Adelaide continued their top eight run in the next two years. They finished fifth in 2016 and went on to play in a semi-final. A year later and the Crows had set the benchmark as minor premiers. The 2017 season proved to be bittersweet as a grand final appearance brought hope and then pain – Richmond proved to be too good, winning by 48-points in front of over 100,000 people. Both the 2018 and 2019 seasons proved to be far more challenging, ultimately leading to major changes. Coach Don Pyke and several veteran players left.