Games Won 7
Ladder Position 15
Premiership position: 15th (7 wins, 15 losses).
Coach: Matthew Nicks
Captain: Rory Sloane
Adelaide took some positive steps in the 2021 season, claiming a couple of big scalps and showing improvement in some key areas of the game.
There were several memorable wins, a couple of heartbreaking losses and a few frustrating matches as the AFL’s youngest squad finished 15th, with seven wins from 22 games.
Adelaide started the 2021 season with new off-field leaders. Former State Premier John Olsen took over from Rob Chapman as Chairman late in 2020 and Tim Silvers replaced Andrew Fagan as CEO. Silvers moved to the Crows from the Hawthorn Football Club, where he was Chief Operating Officer and had held key roles over 17 years.
Former Collingwood captain Scott Burns joined the Crows as senior assistant coach to Matthew Nicks. Burns had been an assistant coach at West Coast, Collingwood and Hawthorn. Former Crows captain Nathan van Berlo returned from a stint as an assistant coach with West Coast to be the midfield coach and James Rahilly switched from Geelong and was appointed Adelaide’s forward coach.
Jackson Hately returned to SA from Greater Western Sydney through the pre-season draft and Adelaide also claimed Mitchell Hinge from Brisbane as a delisted free agent. His brother John Hinge played one AFL game for the Crows in 2007.
For the first time, Adelaide held the opening pick of the AFL’s national draft and after forcing the Western Bulldogs to match a bid on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, called West Adelaide tall forward Riley Thilthorpe. Glenelg midfielder Luke Pedlar was secured at pick No 11 and the Crows later drafted mature-age forward James Rowe, the son of inaugural Crow Stephen Rowe.
COVID-19 continued to present serious challenges for football and the wider community throughout 2021. Some AFL games were moved at the last minute because of outbreaks leading to snap lockdowns, 37 of the scheduled 198 home and away games were played at empty venues and many more matches had reduced crowd capacities. Finals in Victoria and New South Wales were not possible, with the games played in Adelaide, Perth, Queensland and Launceston before the grand final was played in Perth, for the first time.
Adelaide’s dazzling start to the premiership season was unexpected. The Crows upset 2020 grand finalists Geelong by 12 points at Adelaide Oval after leading by 38 points at half-time. Taylor Walker kicked five goals and Rowe booted two on debut.
Wins against Gold Coast and North Melbourne gave Adelaide a 3-1 start but the Crows then faded to lose to Fremantle at Adelaide Oval and wasted a brilliant start against Hawthorn in Tasmania.
Adelaide kicked an AFL record 15 goals straight against the Hawks and led by 32 points midway through the third quarter but did not kick another goal and lost by three points. Thilthorpe made his AFL debut and had a day to remember, kicking five goals including three in five minutes in the second quarter.
Bad days against GWS, Port and West Coast followed in the next three rounds before a shock one-point win over previously unbeaten Melbourne at Adelaide Oval. The Crows trailed by 16 points late in the final quarter but goals to Walker and Darcy Fogarty cut the gap to five points and then Walker’s clutch set shot inside the final minute gave them the lead.
Adelaide’s next game against Richmond at the MCG was moved to Giants Stadium in Sydney and the Crows started well but lost by 28 points. Collingwood kicked the last goal of the round 12 game at Adelaide Oval to win by five points after Shane McAdam had given the Crows the lead with six minutes to play.
The round 13 trip to Cairns to play St Kilda started badly and the Crows did not score until halfway through the second term, after the Saints led 36-0. The margin was back out to 36 points early in the third quarter after a goal by former Crow Brad Crouch but St Kilda did not kick another goal for the rest of the night. Adelaide scored the next seven goals with rookie Thilthorpe booting three, including a remarkable goal over his head to put the Crows in front.
There were only two more wins after the bye, against Hawthorn and North Melbourne.
Adelaide’s worst performance of the season came on the Friday night in round 17, against Essendon at Marvel Stadium. The Crows scored 2.9 (21), their lowest total in the club’s history.
There were more headlines after a six-game ban and $20,000 fine was handed to Walker by the AFL after he admitted racially vilifying a North Adelaide player at the quarter-time break of a SANFL game at Prospect Oval.
Adelaide gave fourth-placed Port a scare in the round 21 Showdown, leading for most of the game before the Power hit the front with nine minutes left and held on to win the 50th Showdown by four points.
Following a move to the midfield late in 2020, Rory Laird had a magnificent season there in a full-time role. He became the seventh player to be crowned Adelaide’s Club Champion for a second time and was among the AFL’s leaders in disposals, clearances and contested possessions. Laird also won the player-voted Players’ Trademark award and the Members’ Most Valuable Player.
Paul Seedsman had an outstanding season on a wing, earning a spot in the 40-man All Australian squad. He finished third in the Club Champion votes behind runner-up Ben Keays.
Lynch claimed the Phil Walsh Best Team Award for the second year in a row and Walker topped the club’s goalkicking for the fifth time in his career, with 48 from 17 games.
Matt Crouch, the Club Champion in 2017, did not play an AFL game after hip and groin surgeries, and recruit Hinge dislocated a shoulder in his first game for the Crows and missed the rest of the season. Wayne Milera’s unlucky run continued. He did not play a game in 2021 because of a serious knee injury suffered in a pre-season game.
Of the young Crows, rookie defender Jordan Butts was a revelation against the opposition’s best tall forwards, Ned McHenry finished equal ninth in the best-and-fairest, defender Nick Murray made the most of his late opportunity as a pre-season supplemental selection to play 13 games and Lachlan Sholl won his second Rising Star nomination. Nine Crows made their AFL debut.
Adelaide returned to the SANFL competition in 2021 after a year’s absence and finished 8th, with five wins.
New coach Michael Godden, a premiership coach with the Eagles and an assistant AFL coach with the Crows in 2020, took charge of a young State League squad with 26 players making their SANFL league debut during the year.
Former Richmond player Daniel Jackson, who retired from the AFL at the end of 2014 and was appointed leadership development manager with the Crows in 2020, played some games to help guide the side.
Kieran Strachan won the State League Club Champion award and was named in the 2021 SANFL Team of the Year.
The ruckman, from South Bendigo, played in the VFL with Essendon and Port Melbourne before the Crows selected him with pick No.7 at the 2018 Rookie Draft.
Strachan finished on 90 votes, ahead of James Borlase (77 votes) and Ronin O’Connor (73 votes). Billy Frampton and Josh Worrell rounded out the top five.
Jay Boyle won the Dean Bailey Award as the best development squad player. The powerful midfielder was recruited from Adelaide Footy League Club Brighton Bombers, but also played five League games for Glenelg in 2017.
Awards and Achievements
All Australian: –
Phil Walsh Best Team Man: Tom Lynch
Players’ Trademark Award: Rory Laird
Members MVP Award: Rory Laird
Leading goalkicker: Taylor Walker
Mark Bickley Emerging Talent Award: Harry Schoenberg
Dr Brian Sando Award: Ned McHenry
Showdown Medal: –
- Adelaide returned to the AFLW grand final stage for the third time in 2021 but did not add to its two premiership cups. The Crows moved on from their 2020 struggles to rise to minor premiers before losing the grand final to Brisbane at Adelaide Oval.
- Adelaide welcomed four new inductees into the Club’s Hall of Fame in 2021. The Crows celebrated the outstanding contributions of inaugural captain Chris McDermott, dual premiership captain Mark Bickley and two-time premiership players Tyson Edwards and Nigel Smart. They joined the Club’s inaugural Hall of Fame inductees from 2015, who were Bob Hammond, Bill Sanders, Ben Hart, Tony Modra, Andrew McLeod, Malcolm Blight, Mark Ricciuto and Simon Goodwin.
- Crows AFLW senior coach and men’s assistant coach Matthew Clarke was awarded AFL Life Membership. He was the first person to qualify for AFL Life Membership through contributions to both the AFL and AFLW programs.
- The AFL interchange bench was increased from four to five, with the fifth nominated as a medical substitute allowed to take the field only to replace a player deemed medically unfit to continue. The “stand” rule was also introduced, forcing players on the mark to hold their position until a play-on call.
AFC Hall of Fame Gallery
In: Riley Thilthorpe (West Adelaide), Luke Pedlar (Glenelg), Brayden Cook (South Adelaide), Sam Berry (Gippsland U18), James Rowe (Woodville-West Torrens), Jackson Hately (GWS), Mitchell Hinge (Brisbane). Rookies: Nick Murray (Murray U18), James Borlase (Sturt, Next Generation Academy), Tariek Newchurch (North Adelaide, NGA), Nick Murray, Patrick Parnell (Murray U18, mid-season draft).
First game players
Sam Berry, v Geelong at Adelaide Oval, 20/3/21 (player debut order 239)
Mitch Hinge, v Geelong at Adelaide Oval, 20/3/21 (240)
James Rowe, v Geelong at Adelaide Oval, 20/3/21 (241)
Nick Murray, v Sydney at the SCG, 27/3/21 (242)
Jackson Hately, v Hawthorn at York Park, 18/4/21 (243)
Riley Thilthorpe, v Hawthorn at York Park, 18/4/21 (244)
Ronin O’Connor, v West Coast at Optus Stadium, 16/5/21 (245)
Josh Worrell, v St Kilda at Cazaly Stadium (Cairns), 12/6/21 (246)
Luke Pedlar, v Brisbane at Adelaide Oval, 3/7/21 (247)
Brayden Cook, v Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval, 7/8/21 (248)
Lachlan Gollant, v North Melbourne at Adelaide Oval, 22/8/21 (249)
|Club Champion top ten|
|1: Rory Laird 123 votes|
2: Ben Keays 120
3: Paul Seedsman 105
4: Brodie Smith 93
= Tom Doedee 93
= Taylor Walker 93
7: Jake Kelly 90
= Reilly O’Brien 90
9: Jordon Butts 88
10: Rory Sloane 51
= Ned McHenry 51
(Coaches collectively graded each player on a 0-10 scale after each game)
|48 Taylor Walker|
25 Shane McAdam
24 Darcy Fogarty
18 Riley Thilthorpe
15 James Rowe
|Brownlow Medal votes|
2 Sholl, Sloane, Smith
The 2021 squad
Back row (from left): Ned McHenry (25), Harry Schoenberg (26), Andrew McPherson (36), Will Hamill (17), Jake Kelly (8), Ronin O’Connor (37), Ben Davis (40), Lachlan Sholl (38), Shane McAdam (23), Chayce Jones (1), Lachlan Murphy (4), Wayne Milera (30). Third row: Mitchell Hinge (20), Darcy Fogarty (32), Elliott Himmelberg (34), Billy Frampton (22), Kieran Strachan (45), Riley Thilthorpe (7), Jordon Butts (41), Fischer McAsey (3), Josh Worrell (24), Jackson Hately (6), David Mackay (14). Second row: Luke Brown (16), Daniel Talia (12), Taylor Walker (13), Matt Crouch (5), Rory Sloane (captain, 9), Matthew Nicks (senior coach), Tom Lynch (27), Tom Doedee (39), Brodie Smith (33), Rory Laird (29), Ben Keays (2). Front row: James Rowe (31), Brayden Cook (15), Luke Pedlar (10), Lachlan Gollant (44), Sam Berry (21), James Borlase (35), Tariek Newchurch (42).
A new apparel deal with O’Neills started for the 2021 season when the Crows used new yellow and red away/clash jumpers. They were similar to the 2016-17 versions but with bands and hoops all the way down the front, in the same style as the home guernsey. The bands were in different order though – blue, red, yellow on the gold, but blue, yellow and red on the red. The names of the 238 Crows AFL players of the first 30 seasons were embedded on the home and away guernsey, instead of the watermarked Crows logos, and the white outline on the numbers was removed for the first time since 1995. We Fly as One was stamped on the inside of the collar.
Main jumper front and worn by Harry Schoenberg and Will Hamill; new gold away with Ben Keays; James Rowe in the red away jumper; 2021 Indigenous jumper designed by Crow Ben Davis.