Crow Thilthorpe's uphill battle for berth in AFL opener
Adelaide young gun Riley Thilthorpe appears set to be squeezed out for the start of the AFL season as the competition for big-man spots heats up.
Thilthorpe has played 25 games since being snared with pick No.2 in the 2020 national draft, but the 20-year-old was left out for last week's 59-point pre-season win over West Coast.
Coach Matthew Nicks preferred Elliott Himmelberg over Thilthorpe as Reilly O'Brien's ruck back-up, and the 199cm big man tallied 14 disposals, four marks, six hitouts and two clearances to go with his 0.2 in front of goal.
Darcy Fogarty starred with four goals in attack, while Ben Keays (four goals) and Taylor Walker (three) were also prolific in a well-functioning forward line.
The 202cm Thilthorpe was labelled a future star even before he was drafted, but he may need to bide his time before working his way back into the senior team.
Adelaide's season begins with an away assignment against GWS on March 19.
"Sometimes it needs a little bit of time," Nicks replied when asked about Thilthorpe's omission against West Coast last week.
"Right now, Riley and Elliott are right there together fighting for a spot in that forward line and second ruck.
"And we've also got Kieran Strachan who is an outstanding ruckman, fighting with those two.
"Reilly O'Brien has the nod (as the No.1 ruckman) at this point, but that's one of the strengths of this sort of pre-season period.
"Those guys have been battling for months now. There's numerous players putting pressure on from below."
The Crows will enter the season full of confidence after beating Fremantle and West Coast during the pre-season.
New recruit Izak Rankine has enjoyed a strong summer, kicking three goals against Fremantle before producing one major to go with two score assists against West Coast.
The Crows finished 14th last season with an 8-14 record, but their pre-season form has buoyed hopes they can rise up the ladder this year.