Clarke not resting on his laurels

DESPITE being in one of the most envied positions in the AFLW as the two time premiership coach of the reigning premiers, Adelaide coach Matthew Clarke is certainly not resting on his laurels coming into the new season.

Although they are the hunted again this season, Clarke noted how “every season is a new adventure” and that “the reality is you’ve got to get everything right and have a bit of luck” to achieve success in the AFLW, and how small the margin between success and failure in the AFLW.

Last season could not have gone much better for Clarke and his Crows, winning their third premiership in only six seasons of the existence of the competition.

“Yeah we had a great year obviously, anytime you win you can’t complain too much” Clarke said “But beyond that I think, we played 29 of our 30 players, the only player that didn’t play was Dayna Cox who’s coming back from some injury stuff.

“We got some young players, got some exposure to AFLW and you know clearly we had a tough draw so all of our games were really tight and challenging, even our games against some of the teams that didn’t end up in the finals, we played West Coast, that was actually a really hard fought game earlier in the season over in Melbourne.

“So we didn’t have an easy game throughout the whole season, and yet we were able to get the result in the majority. We got beaten once as happens, because Bulldogs played a great game that day but yeah it was a really enjoyable year.”

Despite the short turnaround between seasons, Clarke said that preseason has been going well.

“It’s been good. Obviously it’s been a quick turnaround from last season, but I guess the positive of that is the players have probably retained a decent percentage of the fitness from the season and so we were able to jump back into the high intensity training pretty quickly.

“It’s been positive, obviously integrating some new players into the team but reasonably healthy list at the moment so we haven’t had too many missing with injury.”

This offseason was a very different one for Clarke and his Crows. For the first time they were not the only South Australian team in the competition anymore.

Based on past experiences of other teams in their situation, Clarke and his team were banking on losing six players, but only ended up losing three players who Clarke described as “not insignificant” losses – Erin Phillips, Justine Mules and Angela Foley.

Clarke believes that the quick turnaround between seasons may have played a part, with players not wanting to make such a huge jump in such a short window before the new season.

Despite missing out on the top end of South Australia’s talent due to Port’s inclusion this season, Clarke spoke highly of the Crows’ three draftees (and subsequent extra inclusion Jess Waterhouse) and noted that despite missing out on the top end of South Australia’s talent, it was not the be all and end all because of the depth of the pool.

Alongside the draftees, Adelaide traded in Amber Ward and Niamh Kelly from West Coast, who it turned out have been on the radar of the Crows for a number of years.

“Both players were players that we, well in the case of Amber, were very close to drafting her out of the South Australian talent pool a couple of years ago, but basically was kind of 31st on our list and clearly there’s only 30 spots. So she went over to West Coast and had a couple of seasons there and played as a key defender which was great experience for her.

“Her debut game was against us over in Western Australia, but clearly a player we kept a really close eye on and when she sort of indicated that she was ready to come home we were ecstatic that she chose to come to our club.

“Key defender, can maybe play at the other end of the ground as well, so as a forward, but in her career thus far, it’s been key defence and she’s held up pretty well in a team that was developing so the ball was down there a fair bit.

“And then Niamh, similarly, when she initially indicated she was coming over to Australia she was someone that we spoke to and looked to try and recruit at that point but West Coast were in a position to give her a better offer, but she was looking for a change and so we got touch again and said ‘look if you think Adelaide or South Australia could give you a different experience then we’d be wrapped for you to come over.’

“And so thus far she’s played with West Coast a variety of positions, half forward, half back, wing, and she probably fits similar roles with us and she just brings elite speed, she’s obviously had a few years in the game now, she’s got a better understanding of the game now and we think she’ll help make us better.”

Adelaide will begin its season with a Grand Final rematch against Melbourne at home on Friday 26 August.

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