It was not only damaged heads that hurt the Adelaide Crows in the 2018 AFL season. Their casualty ward list could almost have been the basis for an All-Australian squad B.
Brodie Smith and Brad Crouch were gone the bulk of the year. Mitch McGovern, now with Carlton, missed 10 games in 2018.
Rory Sloane and Taylor Walker each missed half the season. Matt Crouch, Tom Lynch and Eddie Betts missed four or more games in 2018.
That sort of player juggling act found Don Pyke struggling to keep all his plates in the air and spinning, with the outcome being a plunge from the 2017 Grand Final to the 12th rung. The mere fact that the club retained Pyke is just this side of baffling, as coaches are often given the axe for failing to supply wins in line with expectations, with injuries to key players regarded as a flimsy excuse.
It may turn out that the injuries that plagued the Crows last season will supply some unexpected benefits. Wayne Milera provided adequate proof that the 11th pick was not wasted and converted basketballer Hugh Greenwood followed the example of Collingwood’s Mason Cox.
Like Cox, Greenwood went for the brass ring and played American college basketball in the chase for NBA largesse, but the Tassie-born player left the Perth Wildcats, entered the AFL as a category B rookie in 2015, and has worked his way into the mix.
Others who have Pyke whistling a happy tune and traipsing about West Lakes are Paul Seedsman (from Collingwood), Tom Doedee and Luke Brown, those three adding a layer of depth that was absent last season.
If the Crows can keep everyone healthy or mainly so, they should see their fortunes improved in the Toyota 2019 AFL Premiership competition.
The bookies seem to agree. Ladbrokes has Adelaide as 21.5 favourites for their Round 1 opener with Hawthorn. The Crows are $2.75 to finish top four, $1.40 to make the top eight and sixth for the premiership at $11.