Gibbs makes early impression in Crows win
ADELAIDE can be sure the high price it paid for Carlton midfielder Bryce Gibbs will deliver a handy return - and the price to keep linkman forward Tom Lynch on the Crows roster is rising.
Gibbs' long-awaited start in Adelaide colours was a standout in the Crows' 10-point win against Fremantle in the JLT Community Series at Strathalbyn where his energy and power in the engine room underlined why the 2006 No.1 draftee carried a premium on his trade value.
But it was the work of out-of-contract Lynch, in his first appearance as stand-in captain, that reinforced why Adelaide's list-management deals cannot be overwhelmed nor dictated by the need for free-agent midfielder Rory Sloane's signature.
Lynch, who has been ready to negotiate a new contract since October, remains the ideal team player who added working off the back of the square to his routine that included a late, match-winning goal against the Dockers.
Gibbs made a strong impression from the opening bounce when he appeared a lifetime Crow for the way he read Adelaide (and former Carlton) ruckman Sam Jacobs' tap to have the first kick of the game.
He finished with 27 disposals - 15 kicks, 12 handpasses.
Still to be seen - perhaps as soon as March 10 in the JLT closer against Port Adelaide at Alberton Oval - is how much grunt the Adelaide midfield has with Sloane (absent against the Dockers), Gibbs and All-Australian and club champion Matt Crouch … and who has to fall out of the rotations to concentrate on such a productive trio.
This puzzle is more of a much-wanted headache for Adelaide coach Don Pyke on the successful return of Cam Ellis-Yolmen from a long stint on the injury list from a serious knee injury in last year's JLT pre-season series.
His duels with Brownlow medallist and Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe - and his attitude to stand up in this challenge - was more of a home-and-away game in June than a practice match in late February.
Crouch's work ethic to run to as many contests - and compete - was a dominant feature of the first half in which he had 22 of his game-high 36 touches.
Adelaide's line-up, particularly in defence, was more makeshift - with just 10 of the Grand Final 22 - with the loss of key defender Daniel Talia who rolled an ankle at training on Thursday.
The most-interesting competitors in the auditions for the gaps created by off-season change at West Lakes were the untried Tom Doedee in defence and rookie-listed forward Lachlan Murphy.
"Today he showed he is capable of playing at the level. He brought a real energy and spark to our forward half," said Pyke of Murphy, who was twice overlooked in the AFL national draft,
"It was a good day for 'Murph'. If he continues to play like that he is going to give himself a fair chance (for AFL selection)."
Adelaide's gameplan - and its strength in running to space and to present multiple tall threats in attack - was challenged by the size of Strathalbyn Oval where the top of the 50m arc connects with the edge of the centre square.
And when the Crows did manage to overcome the squeeze to create set shots from inside 50, the goalkicking accuracy was poor (3.6 in the first 40 minutes).
"It was a difficult day for our forwards," Pyke said.
"There wasn't the space to move the ball. Guys were looking for options that would normally be there on a slightly wider or longer ground."
ADELAIDE 2.3 7.7 9.9 13.13 (91)
FREMANTLE 3.1 3.2 8.5 12.9 (81)
Adelaide: M. Crouch, Gibbs, Lynch, Laird, Doedee, Ellis-Yolmen, Kelly.
Fremantle: Fyfe, Neale, Sandilands, Munday, Walters, Pearce, Tabener
Adelaide: Murphy 3, Atkins, Lynch 2, McGovern 2, Dear, Ellis-Yolmen, Fogarty, Gibbs
Fremantle: Tabener 3, Banfield, Fyfe 2, Ballantyne, Langdon, McCarthy, Neale, Walters
Adelaide: D. Talia (rolled ankle, withdrew from line-up)
Fremantle: Sutcliffe (blurred vision)
Umpires: H. Gavine, N. Williamson, C. Fleer, A. Gianagna
Crowd: 6398 at Strathalbyn Oval.