The departures of two backmen have left a gaping hole in Adelaide’s roster that needs urgent attention, writes MATT TURNER.
Billy Frampton and Fischer McAsey played just 31 AFL games between them over the past three seasons but their departures might lead Adelaide into a recruiting rethink.
Put simply, the Crows are now in need of another tall backman.
Adelaide’s stocks of 190cm-plus defenders read as such: Jordon Butts, Nick Murray, Tom Doedee, Jordan Dawson, Josh Worrell, James Borlase, Max Michalanney.
Depth in the club’s key backline posts looks particularly thin.
Butts, 23, and Murray, 22, are set to enter their third campaigns as AFL regulars holding those roles, having performed admirably despite their inexperience.
They are 198cm and 97kg, and 194cm and 98kg respectively.
Doedee, 25, can play on hulking forwards or smaller goalsneaks, but at 187cm the renowned interceptor is best suited as a third tall in defence.
Dawson, 192cm, is too valuable in other positions to be a backline stopper.
Although Worrell, 23, is 194cm, an impressive reader of the ball and a good decision-maker, he is unlikely to stand the competition’s big spearheads.
Borlase, a 20-year-old Next Generation Academy draftee with a 192cm, 100kg physique, is untried at AFL level after two seasons on the list.
He finished fourth in the Crows’ best-and-fairest last year.
Frampton, 201cm and 99kg, was the back-up option to Murray and Butts in 2022, playing six AFL games – all from rounds 3 to 8 – before being traded to Collingwood in November.
The 26-year-old was not directly replaced.
Two of the Crows’ three draftees were midfielders, the other was talented father-son recruit Michalanney, a 190cm defender capable of playing on tall or small opponents, but more in the Doedee mould than a key-position type.
McAsey quitting the AFL on Monday was another blow to the club’s depth in that area.
Even though he spent most of last season as a forward in the SANFL, the 198cm, 98kg swingman was an All-Australian defender with buckets for hands at under-18 level and it seemed likely he would have returned to that part of the ground if he had kept playing.
So where does that leave Adelaide?
McAsey’s exit opens a vacant list spot and, like all clubs, the Crows have until February 15 if they want to sign a player during the pre-season supplemental selection period.
Adelaide is inviting ex-Collingwood midfielder Tyler Brown to audition for a squad berth from next week.
It would be a surprise if the Crows did not soon give the same opportunity to a key defender.
Not signing one would leave the club a Butts, Murray or Doedee long-term injury away from being shorthanded until the mid-year draft in June.
VFL star and reigning Fothergill-Round-Mitchell medallist Ethan Phillips might appeal as a mature-age prospect.
The 23-year-old, who stands 196cm and 90kg, is coming off a year in which he broke the Victorian state league’s intercept marking record, averaging 5.1 per game.
Delisted Bomber Josh Eyre, a 198cm, 85kg defender who is training with St Kilda this pre-season, is another they may consider.
Taken at pick 39 in the 2020 national draft, Eyre, 20, did not play an AFL game at Essendon but showed promise in the VFL, where he was entrusted with some kick-ins duties.
The Crows could choose to sit pat until mid-season, banking on half-backs like Brodie Smith (189cm), Mitch Hinge (189cm) and Worrell playing on talls if needed, or using Elliott Himmelberg as a swingman.
Himmelberg, 200cm and 99kg, played in defence for his junior club, Redland, as well as at under-18 level for the Allies.
Waiting until June would give Adelaide a chance to watch tall defenders across the country play for three months.
With defensive height becoming a crucial asset in the modern game – last season half of the top 16 leading goalkickers across the league were at least 198cm – the Crows would not want to get caught short.
Meanwhile, uncertainty still surrounds the availability of concussion-affected wingman Paul Seedsman, who is contracted for 2023.
Seedsman has not played since round 23, 2021, having been sidelined since sustaining a head knock at training in December that year.
McAsey exit opens door for son of Pies great
Former Collingwood midfielder Tyler Brown will audition for a spot on Adelaide’s rookie list from next week.
Brown, the son of Magpies great Gavin Brown, played 27 games in five seasons, including 11 in 2022, before being delisted in September.
Adelaide has a vacant list spot after the retirement of 21-year-old swingman Fischer McAsey on Monday.
Clubs have until February 15 to add players to their squad as part of the pre-season supplemental selection period.
Standing at 192cm and 86kg, Brown would add depth and height to the Crows’ on-ball unit, rather than be a like-for-like replacement for McAsey.
Adelaide was reported to have had some interest in the 23-year-old after Collingwood axed him but filled its list with draftees Max Michalanney, Billy Dowling and Hugh Bond.
Brown played in 10 of the Magpies’ first 13 matches last season then featured just once more at AFL level – as an unused medical substitute.
He averaged 23.8 disposals and 6.2 tackles from six VFL games in 2022.
Brown signed with VFL club Footscray last month.
Adelaide added key defender Nick Murray during the pre-season supplemental selection period in 2021.
McAsey, who featured in 10 games for the Crows after being taken with pick 6 in 2019, quit the AFL on Monday, citing a lack of passion to make it at the top level.
Could former Pie be a Crow by mid-season?
Adelaide ruckman Reilly O’Brien expects Rory Sloane to remain captain in 2022, saying the veteran is clearly the leader of the squad.
Speculation has swirled that Sloane, who has been the Crows’ sole skipper since 2020, may not have the role this coming season as he returns from a serious knee injury.
Asked if he thought the 32-year-old would take the mantle again, O’Brien said: “At this stage, absolutely”.
“He’s still the captain and doing a great job.
“I think he’s clearly the leader of the group.
“He’s training well, hopefully he gets back fully into training soon and he’s ready for round 1.”
Wearing a bandage on his right knee, Sloane moved well at training on Monday – the Crows’ first session back from their Christmas breaks.
O’Brien said the club was yet to discuss when it would decide the captaincy.
He expected a leadership group vote would happen in the next month.
Meanwhile, O’Brien was disappointed with his 2022 season, saying he was too wound up and he did not find fluency.
The 2020 best-and-fairest winner played 20 AFL matches, getting dropped in May.
He did not place in the top 10 in the Malcolm Blight Medal count last season.
“I was overthinking my footy a lot, especially earlier in the year,” the 77-gamer said.
“I found some better form later in the year but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be.
“I want to be one of the best ruckmen in the game and I definitely wasn’t at that level last year so I’m looking to get back to that this year.”
In other observations from the sidelines:
■ On-baller Ben Keays was with the main group for the first time this pre-season after having AC joint surgery.
■ Josh Rachele and Josh Worrell walked and jogged laps due to minor hamstring issues.
■ Former Collingwood defender Jack Madgen – the Crows’ SANFL marquee player – was jogging with a group on modified training that included Shane McAdam (fitness). Could Madgen, who featured 49 times for the Magpies and was delisted in October, be recruited to Adelaide’s AFL list as a replacement for departed swingman Fischer McAsey? Madgen, 192cm and 94kg, would provide an experienced back-up to the likes of Jordon Butts and Nick Murray.
■ Key forward Riley Thilthorpe and midfielder Zac Taylor both missed the session due to illness.
INJURY CONCERNS FOR POWER, CROWS AHEAD OF BIG PRE-SEASON
Both South Australian AFL clubs will step up their preparations for season 2023 from Monday when they return to training, just under nine weeks from round 1.
The Crows and Port Adelaide resume from the competition-wide Christmas break with several key players from their respective squads still building back to full fitness.
Adelaide will assess small forward Josh Rachele, defender Josh Worrell and high flyer Shane McAdam before hitting the track to determine if the trio needs to have their training loads modified.
Rachele and Worrell have both had minor hamstring complaints, while McAdam has been improving his fitness.
Backman Andrew McPherson will not be in the main group after having a knee arthroscopy in November.
Fellow defender Tom Doedee (AC joint repair in off-season) will be training but with no contact.
Swingman Fischer McAsey has been on personal leave since November without an exact date for a return.
At Alberton, boom recruit Jason Horne-Francis will continue his recovery from surgery on both his legs, having resumed running last month.
After its final training session for 2022, on a camp on the Sunshine Coast, the Power expected Horne-Francis to be available to play pre-season matches next month.
The 18-year-old, who North Melbourne took at pick 1 in 2021 then traded to Port Adelaide in October, was among several teammates on modified programs before the break.
Brownlow medallist Ollie Wines and backman Tom Clurey, who both had post-season knee surgeries, had been in that group to end 2022, along with forward Mitch Georgiades (ankle) and defender Jase Burgoyne (knee).
Wines and Clurey were tipped to be back into full training this week.
Vice-captain Wines had been on crutches and unable to walk for six weeks after his left knee operation.
Burgoyne landed awkwardly during the Power’s camp last month.
Originally published as AFL pre-season 2023: All the latest news from Crows and Power
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