Games Won 3
Ladder Position 18
Premiership position: 18th (3 wins, 14 losses).
Coach: Matthew Nicks
Captain: Rory Sloane
It was a season like no other, for both Adelaide and the AFL competition.
The Crows finished bottom for the first time in the club’s history – three years after playing in a grand final – but it was a miracle that 2020 season happened at all as COVID-19 spread around the world and brought the game to its knees.
The AFL season started on March 19 and was suspended four days later. The AFLW season, reshuffled to start the finals early, was abandoned before the preliminary finals could be played. The AFL and clubs went into survival mode, cutting or standing down many staff and officials as they faced a long period without income from football.
Crows assistant coach Marty Mattner and development coach Paul Thomas were among a number of football staff released by the Crows after the AFL cut the soft cap.
When the AFL resumed on June 11, the game had to change. The season was shortened to 18 rounds, all games were reduced to 80 per cent of the normal time, and players and officials lived in a “bubble” with strict contact guidelines. Players could tackle and bump but were not allowed to shake hands, hug and link arms to sing the club song. Virus outbreaks, regular COVID testing, shut borders and travel restrictions added to the challenges and clubs were forced to spend weeks in quarantine hubs. There was no official reserves competition and almost half of the AFL games, including the grand final, were played in south east Queensland.
Crowd numbers were restricted throughout the season and some games were played behind closed gates in Victoria. A crowd of 2000 was permitted under strict protocols at Adelaide Oval for the round two Showdown between Adelaide and Port, the first game for the SA clubs after the break.
There were some doubts about the season continuing in July, when Victoria’s COVID situation worsened. But the Victorian clubs quickly moved their players to Queensland and teams were allowed to fly in and out of South Australia to play games at Adelaide Oval. At one stage there were 33 games played in 20 days.
It was a tough initiation for new Crows coach Matthew Nicks, who also had to deal with his team losing their first 13 matches.
Nicks was appointed to his first senior coaching role in October, replacing Don Pyke to become the ninth coach in the club’s history. He joined the Crows from Greater Western Sydney, where he was the senior assistant coach after an eight-year coaching stint with Port Adelaide. Nicks played 125 AFL games for Sydney after being drafted from West Adelaide.
Taylor Walker stepped aside as a captain after sharing the role with Rory Sloane in 2019. There were other changes to the football department. Adam Kelly replaced Brett Burton as Head of Football after five years with the SANFL as General Manager of Football.
And the playing list had another massive overhaul. Veteran forward Eddie Betts was the biggest name to move, returning to Carlton after kicking 310 goals in 132 AFL games for Adelaide, while Sam Jacobs (GWS), Josh Jenkins, (Geelong), Alex Keath (Western Bulldogs), Hugh Greenwood (Gold Coast) and Cam Ellis-Yolmen (Brisbane) also switched clubs. Andy Otten and Richard Douglas retired at the end of the 2019 season.
Amid a backdrop of worsening Covid-19 conditions across Australia, the opening round took place in March as scheduled, despite not a single fan attending any of the nine games.
Adelaide, celebrating Sloane’s 200th AFL game, hosted Sydney at an empty Adelaide Oval on Saturday March 21. The Crows trailed by 15 points with three minutes left before goals to Tom Lynch and Chayce Jones gave them a chance. Walker took a mark on the lead just outside the 50m arc but his shot drifted to the right for a behind, with only 18 seconds left. It was a solid start but by the time the Sunday games were completed, the AFL and clubs were facing an unprecedented shutdown. No more AFL games would be played until June.
Once the competition stopped AFL players spent the next two months trying to keep fit. There were strict rules that restricted training in groups and Adelaide was one of the clubs hit hard by AFL sanctions. Assistant coach Ben Hart was stood down for six weeks and 16 players were handed one-match suspended bans for breaching an AFL requirement to train in pairs while in quarantine in the Barossa Valley in May.
The three-point loss to Sydney was the first of 13 consecutive losses. The season restarted after 82 days with a Showdown and Port dominated to win by 75 points in front of a socially-distanced limited crowd. Gold Coast, Brisbane, Fremantle and West Coast were rarely troubled in their wins against Adelaide in the Queensland hub.
Adelaide came close to ending the losing streak in round eight but fell short to Essendon by three points at Adelaide Oval. The following week was the Crows’ worst performance of the year, crushed by 17th-placed North Melbourne by 69 points on the Gold Coast.
There were some positive signs in the round 13 loss to Geelong and then Adelaide returned after the bye to win its first game of the season, taking down Hawthorn by 35 points. “I was proud to walk into the changerooms and see smiles on faces,” Nicks said. “It was a really tough time right throughout the year when you come in week after week and you are not able to give people the reward they deserve.”
Win number two followed the next round against 2019 grand finalists GWS, who were still chasing a finals spot. The Crows jumped them early and held control of the game to run out 12-point winners at Adelaide Oval. Adelaide made it three wins in a row against Carlton on the Gold Coast and although it lost to Richmond by 44 points in the last round, the late season progress lifted spirits.
Former rookie Reilly O’Brien’s consistency in the ruck was rewarded with a narrow win in the Crows’ Club Champion award. O’Brien was in the top five in the AFL for hit outs and hit outs to advantage, fourth for contested marks and played every game.
Runner-up Rory Laird moved to the midfield later in the season and his presence added some power and burst. Luke Brown, Matt Crouch and Ben Keays rounded out the top five. Keays joined the Crows as a rookie pick after being delisted by Brisbane but the midfielder surpassed expectations.
Wayne Milera’s class and poise were sorely missed after round two, when he went down with a season-ending foot injury. Sloane missed five games mid-season with a hand injury, Tom Doedee returned from his knee injury but then had hamstring issues, and Jordan Gallucci sat out the season after rupturing an Achilles tendon at training.
Adelaide blooded a dozen new faces in 2020 and the rewards were seen later in the year. Shane McAdam, Fischer McAsey, Ned McHenry, Will Hamill, Harry Schoenberg, Jordon Butts, Lachie Sholl and Emerging Talent Award winner Andrew McPherson were among the debutants. Jones also produced some exciting moments, as did Elliott Himmelberg in attack.
It was a particularly difficult year of football for recent draftees and players on the edge of selection. Adelaide was unable to field a team in the SANFL and instead relied on some friendly scratch games against other AFL clubs to give the squad some match conditioning.
Awards and Achievements
All Australian: –
Phil Walsh Best Team Man: Tom Lynch
Players’ Trademark Award: Ben Keays
Members MVP Award: Reilly O’Brien
Leading goalkicker: Taylor Walker
Mark Bickley Emerging Talent Award: Andrew McPherson
Dr Brian Sando Award: Andrew McPherson
Showdown Medal: –
- Bob Hammond, an Australian Football Hall of Fame member who was the inaugural chairman of the Crows and oversaw their two premierships, died on May 30, aged 78. Hammond, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was inducted into the Adelaide Football Club’s Hall of Fame in 2015.
- Taylor Walker overtook Tony Modra as Adelaide’s all-time leading goalkicker in round 18 when he kicked his 441st goal.
- Rob Chapman stepped down as Chairman in October after 14 years on the Board, 12 as Chair. He was replaced by John Olsen AO, a former Premier of South Australia and Chairman of the SA Football Commission and Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority.
- Three Crows reached the 200 AFL game milestone in 2020. Sloane was first, in round one against Sydney, and then Walker played his 200th game in round 13. Two-time All Australian Daniel Talia reached 200 in the last round of the season against Richmond. He remained on the list in 2021 but because of injuries this was his last game for the Club.
- A Showdown of a different kind was played at Adelaide Oval on February 2 when cricket and football united to raise funds for the SA Bushfire Appeal. Players from both the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide were joined by Adelaide Strikers including Travis Head, Rashid Khan and Alex Carey in a special T20 cricket match.
- A State-of-Origin game between Victoria and All Stars was played on February 28 to help raise funds for bushfire relief. Sloane represented Victoria and Brodie Smith, Walker and Laird were picked for the All Stars. Victoria won by 48 points after trailing at three-quarter-time.
- Adelaide was involved in the filming of Amazon’s AFL documentary, Making Their Mark. A film crew was embedded with the Club throughout the year and the Crows’ inner sanctum stories centred on coach Nicks and captain Sloane.
In: Billy Frampton (Port Adelaide), Fischer McAsey (Sandringham U18), Harry Schoenberg (Woodville-West Torrens), Josh Worrell (Sandringham U18), Ronin O’Connor (Claremont), Lachlan Murphy (elevated rookie). Rookies: Ben Crocker (Collingwood), Ben Keays (Brisbane), Ayce Taylor (Northern U18).
First game players
Billy Frampton, v Sydney at Adelaide Oval, 21/3/20 (player debut order 227)
Fischer McAsey, v Sydney at Adelaide Oval, 21/3/20 (228)
Ben Crocker, v Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, 13/6/20 (229)
Ben Keays, v Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, 13/6/20 (230)
Ned McHenry, v Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, 13/6/20 (231)
Will Hamill, v Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium, 21/6/20 (232)
Shane McAdam, v Brisbane Lions at the Gabba, 28/6/20 (233)
Andrew McPherson, v West Coast at the Gabba, 11/7/20 (234)
Kieran Strachan, v North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium, 1/8/20 (235)
Harry Schoenberg, v Melbourne at Adelaide Oval, 5/8/20 (236)
Lachlan Sholl, v Melbourne at Adelaide Oval, 13/9/20 (237)
Jordan Butts, v Geelong at Adelaide Oval, on 23/8/20 (238)
|Club Champion top ten|
|1: Reilly O’Brien 81 votes|
2: Rory Laird 80
3: Luke Brown 76
4: Matt Crouch 72
5: Ben Keays 65
6: Brodie Smith 61
7: Shane McAdam 56
8: Kyle Hartigan 54
9: Tom Lynch 53
10: Rory Sloane 51
(Coaches collectively graded each player on a 0-10 scale after each game)
|15 Taylor Walker|
12 Shane McAdam
9 Elliott Himmelberg
8 Darcy Fogarty
8 Tyson Stengle
7 Lachlan Murphy
|Brownlow Medal votes|
3 M. Crouch, Sloane, Sholl
1 B Crouch, Keays, Smith
The 2020 squad
Back row (from left): Lachlan Murphy (4), Chayce Jones (1), Rory Atkins (21), Myles Poholke (10), David Mackay (14), Paul Seedsman (11), Jake Kelly (8), Harry Schoenberg (26), Riley Knight (3), Jordan Gallucci (7), Ned McHenry (25), Tyson Stengle (18). Third row: Wayne Milera (30), Ben Crocker (20), Ben Davis (40), Darcy Fogarty (32), Kyle Hartigan (15), Elliott Himmelberg (34), Reilly O’Brien (43), Kieran Strachan (45), Billy Frampton (22), Fischer McAsey (35), Josh Worrell (24), Ben Keays (28), Luke Brown (16). Second row: Daniel Talia (12), Brad Crouch (2), Taylor Walker (13), Matt Crouch (5), Rory Sloane (9), Matthew Nicks (senior coach), Tom Lynch (27), Tom Doedee (39), Brodie Smith (33), Rory Laird (29), Bryce Gibbs (6). Front row: Patrick Wilson (31), Will Hamill (17), Lachlan Sholl (38), Shane McAdam (23), Lachlan Gollant (44), Ronin O’Connor (37), Andrew McPherson (36), Jordan Butts (41). Absent: Ayce Taylor.
A new white-based clash guernsey was launched after a fan vote, using the ‘We Fly as One’ Crow on a new chevron shape blue, red and gold. Red was added to the cuff. The Crows logo above the number was replaced with a sponsor logo when the competition resumed from the COVID break for round two.
The 2020 main jumper, worn by Rory Laird and Luke Brown; Brodie Smith and Bryce Gibbs in the clash jumper; David Mackay, Rory Sloane and Shane McAdam in the 2020 Indigenous guernsey.