Injuries catch up to Crows as Dees flex muscles
IT WAS always going to happen.
At some stage a banged-up Adelaide's chronic injury list was going to catch up with it.
The Crows have been bravely, almost heroicly, patching up wounds all season in their year of redemption.
For the beaten grand finalist to sit 6-3 after nine rounds with 25 players at one point being named on the club's injury list was, as inaugural coach Graham Cornes pointed out, astonishing and a credit to the club's depth, recruiting and coaching staff.
But it all came crumbling down in Alice Springs yesterday.
A game dubbed the "Jake Lever grudge match'' in reference to former Crow-turned-Demon Lever playing his first game against his ex-club, the battle of third versus fourth turned into a non-contest.
In truth, it was as good as over after just 13 minutes when Jesse Hogan booted a super-impressive Melbourne's fifth goal before Adelaide had hit the scoreboard.
In the blink of an eye it was a 31-point lead to a team that was close to full strength against one that went in with seven first-choice men sidelined.
The Crows briefly huffed and puffed but they embarrassingly fell apart completely in the second half, crashing to their biggest defeat (91 points) in the Don Pyke coaching era, eclipsing the 59 points they lost by to North Melbourne in Tasmania in round seven last year.
Matt Crouch, Luke Brown and Wayne Milera returned from leg muscle strains - an issue that has head-scratchingly plagued the club this season - but it lost two more key foot soldiers.
Paul Seedsman - the former Magpie who is enjoying a career-best season - hurt an adductor muscle in the pre-game warm-up and was a late withdrawal.
This left the Crows without regulars Seedsman, captain Taylor Walker, vice-captain Tom Lynch, Brad Crouch, Brodie Smith, Mitch McGovern and Riley Knight.
Brown copped a head knock in the first quarter and was ruled out at quarter-time under the concussion rule.
It all became too much for a club that has plugged holes so well this season. The dam wall finally burst against a team that has now won five straight and has emerged as a genuine flag contender.
The key for Adelaide now is to hold ground until it gets key players, most notably Walker and Sloane, back from injury, which could take a month.
That won't be easy with the Crows' draw rated by Champion Data as the second-toughest - behind only the Western Bulldogs - for the rest of the season.
They will face an equally banged-up GWS at home next Sunday before games against Fremantle in Perth, Hawthorn at the MCG and the league's top two sides West Coast and Richmond.
At 6-4, Adelaide is not at the panic stage. But it faces a crucial month in its juncture.