ADELAIDE celebrates its 25th season in the AFL next year – and so much of its foundation decade (1991-2000) when the Crows’ soul was born remains to praise.
When the Crows honour the best 22 players of their first 25 years, the bulk of the selections will be from the club’s opening 10 seasons.
From the “Team of the Decade” named in 2000, 12 remain locked in for Adelaide’s all-time team in 2015: premiership captain Mark Bickley, Darren Jarman, Simon Goodwin, Ben Hart, inaugural captain Chris McDermott, Tony McGuiness, Andrew McLeod, Tony Modra, Shaun Rehn, Brownlow Medallist Mark Ricciuto, Matthew Robran and Nigel Smart.
Four of these players are Australian Football Hall of Fame inductees: Bickley, Jarman, McLeod and Ricciuto.
THE CROWS’ BEST-EVER 22
The 10 players to have emerged as club greats in the past 14 seasons are: Defenders Ben Rutten, Michael Doughty, Nathan Bock, Nathan Bassett and Graham Johncock; midfielders Scott Thompson and Richard Douglas; midfielder-forwards Bernie Vince and the ultimately consistent Tyson Edwards and forward Brett Burton.
They displace from the “Team of the Decade” – defenders Rod Jameson and Peter Caven who are replaced in the key defensive roles by Rutten and Bock; the entire centre line that was Greg Anderson, Andrew Jarman and Simon Tregenza; forwards Kane Johnson and Matthew Liptak and three from the interchange bench – inaugural club champion Mark Mickan, Rodney Maynard and David Pittman.
The coach remains unchallenged as Malcolm Blight – the “messiah” who arrived for the 1997 season – is the only man to have opened the trophy cabinet at West Lakes to place premiership trophies (1997-98) into the collection.
Mickan, Liptak and Matt Connell are the only club champions who do not make the all-time Crows team.
Ricciuto was named the “Player of the Decade” in 2000. He keeps that title for the club’s 25-season story that is celebrated next season. He also stands as Adelaide’s greatest captain and takes the skipper’s band for the all-time team.
Bickley was the “Team Man of the Decade” in 2000. That honour belongs to Edwards today.
Adelaide has had four players reach the 300-game milestone. All four – McLeod (328), Edwards (321), Ricciuto (312) and Hart (311) – have their place in the starting 18 of Adelaide’s all-time best team.
Of the 22 all-time best at Adelaide, only two players remains in the AFL – but both are not with the Crows. Douglas, the 2010 club champion, is still at West Lakes. The missing Crow is 2009 club champion Bernie Vince who was sacrificed in last year’s trade period to claim a second-round draft pick from Melbourne as Adelaide dealt with the Kurt Tippett sanctions.
Of the current-day Crows who have the chance to make a claim during the next celebratory moment at Adelaide, midfielders Rory Sloane and Patrick Dangerfield, All-Australian defender Daniel Talia and key forward Taylor Walker are best placed.
CROWS SILVER ANNIVERSARY TEAM
B: B. Hart, B. Rutten, M. Doughty
HB: N. Smart, N. Bock, A. McLeod
C: S. Goodwin, S. Thompson, R. Douglas
HF: B. Vince, M. Robran, T. Edwards
F: D. Jarman, T. Modra, B. Burton
1R: S. Rehn, M. Ricciuto (c), T. McGuinness
Int: M. Bickley, N. Bassett, G. Johncock, C. McDermott
Coach: M. Blight
(Adelaide, 1992-2006: 311 games, 45 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1997, 1998; Adelaide club champion, 1999, 2002; All-Australian, 1992, 1993, 1999, 2002.
RUCCI SAYS: It is an endearing image – the red-headed teenager who turned up for Adelaide’s inaugural squad still in his school uniform and became a club hero. Ben Hart was an All-Australian in his first AFL season. He saved the Crows to half-time of the 1998 grand final against North Melbourne. He was the first Adelaide player to reach the 300-game milestone. He was an extraordinary defender with the ability to shut down opponents – and also take on the game.
(Adelaide, 2003-2014: 229 games, 9 goals)
HONOURS: All-Australian, 2005.
RUCCI SAYS: Ben Rutten emerged from Adelaide’s rookie list to reach the record books in his first game with three goals from his first three kicks against Fremantle at Subiaco Oval in round 16, 2003. Then he made a career out of stopping goals, in particular against three of the game’s power forwards – Jonathan Brown, Warren Tredrea and Barry Hall. “The Truck” came to a perfect stop at Adelaide Oval this year in round 23 against St Kilda with a goal from his last kick.
(Adelaide, 2000-2012: 231 games, 46 goals)
HONOURS: Pre-season premiership, 2003.
RUCCI SAYS: Originally on the Adelaide rookie list, Michael Doughty has to deal with some brutal feedback from his teammates to find the 100 per cent focus that made him a solid member of the Crows defence. He also was a sound midfielder, taking on many challenging roles when Adelaide needed a player to take on a shutdown mission against big-name rivals. Left the game with many admiring how he gave it all.
(Adelaide, 1991-2004: 278 games, 166 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1997, 1998; All-Australian, 1991, 1993 and 1998.
RUCCI SAYS: Nigel Smart was the last of the “original Crows” to be left standing – on those feet that were burnt from walking across hot coals in a pre-season camp. Somewhat different with his persona, Smart was the Adelaide vice-captain during the Malcolm Blight refit that led to the back-to-back premiership success in 1997-98. He was a sound defender who could adjust when Adelaide needed a marking target closer to goal.
(Adelaide, 2004-2010: 113 games, 57 goals. Also Gold Coast, 2011-2014: 27 games, 6 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide club champion, 2008; All-Australian, 2008.
RUCCI SAYS: Nathan Bock was at his best as a key defender when the footy gods presented an opportunity he could never regret – moving to an expansion franchise as an uncontracted player for money he would have never seen at Adelaide. His record at centre half-back – in particular the Malcolm Blight Medal in 2008 – underlines why he tips Peter Caven out of this position from Adelaide’s Team of the Decade (2000).
(Adelaide, 1995-2010: 340 games, 275 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1997, 1998; Adelaide club champion, 1997, 20001, 2007; All-Australian, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2007 (captain); Norm Smith Medal as best-afield 1997 and 1998 grand finals; Australian Football Hall of Fame.
RUCCI SAYS: Considering Andrew McLeod played his last 200 games on a dodgy knee – and still maintained his reputation as one of the game’s elite players – it is fair to wonder if he would have a Brownlow Medal in his resume had the body held up. He is one of the game’s greatest players of any era who had a phenomenal read of the play, often a split second before mere AFL players he left in his wake.
(Adelaide, 1997-2010: 275 games, 162 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1997, 1998; Adelaide club champion, 2000, 2005, 2006; All-Australian, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2009.
RUCCI SAYS: Neil Craig once declared Simon Goodwin was Adelaide’s best-ever captain, a role he held from 2008-2010. He also was one of the Crows’ most-adaptive players who could have commanded a role in Adelaide’s best-ever side in all three zones – in the midfield, across half-back or across half-forward. Opposition coaches were left in fear when Goodwin was allowed to unload a kick from just outside 50.
(Adelaide, 2005-today: 225 games, 133 goals. Also Melbourne, 2001-04: 39 games, 17 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide club champion, 2011, 2012; All-Australian, 2012.
RUCCI SAYS: Scott Thompson served his apprenticeship at Melbourne before returning to SA to play with a club he did not support after being a Port Adelaide SANFL product. In the past decade he has become an on-field symbol of the Adelaide Football Club as a super-strong and consistent midfielder who chalks up a high count of disposals. His fitness standards are legendary at West Lakes.
(Adelaide, 2006 to today: 155 games, 107 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide club champion 2010.
RUCCI SAYS: Not always lucky with injury, Richard Douglas has matured to be one of Adelaide’s best midfielders for dealing two-way traffic – attacking and defending. His penchant for the “little things that count most” has become more noticeable each season and was highlighted this year by a career-best count of 91 tackles.
(Adelaide, 2006-2013: 129 games, 180 goals. Also Melbourne, 2014: 22 games, 13 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide club champion, 2009.
RUCCI SAYS: Almost a cult figure among Adelaide fans, Bernie Vince grew up as a Crows fan and expected to be a one-club player after he was drafted to West Lakes. As an exciting midfielder, he was at the height of his powers in 2009 when he was offered big money to try his trade at a Melbourne-based club. Ultimately, the Crows sacrificed Vince for a second-round draft pick to fill a gap created by the Kurt Tippett sanctions.
(Adelaide, 1993-2001: 130 games, 110 goals. Also Hawthorn, 1991: 7 games, 5 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1997, 1998.
RUCCI SAYS: Matthew Robran was Adelaide’s first genuine centre half-forward – and the Crows have been waiting ever since his retirement at the end of 2001 for the next “great hope”. He was played with tactical nous by Malcolm Blight, working to specific zones during the mid-90s era. His best game was the six-goal destruction of the Western Bulldogs in the 1998 preliminary final at the MCG.
(Adelaide, 1995-2010: 321 games, 192 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1997, 1998.
RUCCI SAYS: On consistency, on giving everything he had with minimal fuss and on making the most of a career that began with ambivalence, Tyson Edwards is without peer at the Adelaide Football Club. While others were lauded with individual medals, Edwards emphasised all that mattered in team football. He had a career-high 41 touches in his 300th game.
(Adelaide, 1996-2001: 121 games, 264 goals. Also Hawthorn, 1991-1995: 109 games, 122 goals).
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player 1997, 1998. Adelaide leading goalkicker, 1999. All-Australian, 1996. Hawthorn honours include premiership player, 1991; club champion, 1992 and All-Australian, 1992, 1995. Australian Football Hall of Fame.
RUCCI SAYS: Darren Jarman is one of the game’s greatest players. The creative trade Bill Sanders worked to get Jarman from Hawthorn in 1995 – with the charming line of the Jarman brothers finally being reunited – stands as one of Adelaide’s greatest off-field plays. Immaculate skills, stunning goalkicking and repetitive tormenting of defenders makes Jarman a player for any team of any era.
(Adelaide, 1992-98: 118 games, 440 goals. Also Fremantle, 1999-2001: 47 games, 148 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide leading goalkicker, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997; Coleman Medal as AFL leading goalkicker, 1997; All-Australian, 1993, 1997. Also Fremantle leading goalkicker, 1999.
RUCCI SAYS: Remains Adelaide’s all-time leading goalkicker and only Coleman Medallist. Deserved his SA Football Hall of Fame induction this season for how he filled seats at Football Park in the early 90s with his high marking and production-line goals. Also deserved to have a premiership medal in his collection before Malcolm Blight decided the Adelaide was not big enough for both he and Modra and so he was traded to Fremantle.
(Adelaide, 1999-2010: 177 games, 264 goals).
HONOURS: Adelaide leading goalkicker, 2002, 2008.
RUCCI SAYS: Drafted with Adelaide’s first-round call in 1998 (No. 16), Brett Burton was immediately cast as the player to fill the shoes left by cult-figure full forward Tony Modra. He did not disappoint with his high flying and exhilarating marks. He remains in the top five for career goals scored at Adelaide.
(Adelaide, 1991-2000: 134 games, 55 goals. Also Hawthorn, 2001-2002: 33 games, 7 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1997, 1998; Adelaide club champion, 1994; All-Australian 1994, 1998.
RUCCI SAYS: Incredibly moody but also driven, Shaun Rehn emerged from Adelaide’s inaugural squad as a ruck man who refused to be cast as a “pop-up sprinkler”. His eagerness to chase the ball away from ruck contests made him a difficult player to contain. His impatience and intolerance with any obstacle was seen when he ripped off his knee brace in a preliminary final to declare he knew better than his doctors on the state of his body – and he was right.
Mark Ricciuto (CAPTAIN)
(Adelaide, 1993-2007: 312 games, 292 goals).
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1998; Brownlow Medallist, 2003; Adelaide club champion, 1998, 2003, 2004; All-Australian, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 (captain), 2005 (captain); Adelaide leading goalkicker, 2006. Australian Football Hall of Fame.
RUCCI SAYS: Regarded as Adelaide’s greatest player, Mark Ricciuto is the club’s only Brownlow Medallist – and now the spiritual guardian of all that was established in the 1997-98 premiership double (although he missed the 1997 flag with injury). Incredibly strong and bullish in his approach to the game, Ricciuto stands as one of its greatest midfielders.
(Adelaide, 1991-1996: 113 games, 79 goals. Also Footscray, 1986-1990: 109 games, 108 goals).
HONOURS: Adelaide club champion, 1993. Also Footscray club champion, 1987.
RUCCI SAYS: Tony McGuinness, the 1982 Magarey Medallist and third placegetter in the 1987 Brownlow Medal count, emerged from the era in which SA produced great rovers. His eagerness to win the ball and drive it to key forwards was such a strong feature of his game that he inevitably had to deal with taggers. His end at Adelaide came before his call as one of those not wanted by Malcolm Blight.
(Adelaide, 1991-2003: 272 games, 77 goals).
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership player, 1997 and 1998; Australian Football Hall of Fame.
RUCCI SAYS: Mark Bickley led the most-successful era in the Adelaide Football Club’s history as its captain in the 1997-98 premiership double. His personal story symbolised that of his team – defy the critics, work extremely hard to beat the odds and never pass up an opportunity.
(Adelaide, 1998-2008: 210 games, 25 goals)
HONOURS: All-Australian, 2006.
RUCCI SAYS: Another player who was challenged by his teammates in the confrontational Leading Teams leadership model, Nathan Bassett became the classic 10-year player every recruiting chief looks for while standing as a sound defender.
(Adelaide, 2002-2013: 227 games, 120 goals)
HONOURS: Adelaide leading goalkicker, 2003.
RUCCI SAYS: Was so highly rated when Adelaide’s talent scouts saw him on the Eyre Peninsula that they imagined Graham Johncock as a Brownlow Medallist. Many wish he had been given the chance to develop into a midfielder. But either as a hard-running defender or opportunist forward, Johncock carved out a fine career at Adelaide.
(Adelaide, 1991-1996: 177 games, 25 goals).
HONOURS: Adelaide club champion, 1992; All-Australian, 1992.
RUCCI SAYS: Adelaide’s inaugural captain, Chris McDermott led the club through the exciting formation years under Graham Cornes and the demanding years of change that started with Robert Shaw – before being cut before Malcolm Blight’s arrival at the end of 1996. Was a no fuss, hard-at-it midfielder.
(Adelaide, 1997-1999: 74 games).
HONOURS: Adelaide premiership coach, 1997, 1998.
RUCCI SAYS: It was short, it was sweet and it was as dramatic in its start as it was in its ending after just three years. But the “Messiah’ Malcolm Blight delivered a prize no coach before or since has been able to give the Crows – the AFL premiership trophy. His methods were without comparison, but they succeeded.