Crows pause with AFL season at crossroads

Jason Phelan
The bye has come at a good time for Adelaide - last season's beaten grand finalists - to regroup

Where to now for Adelaide's AFL season?

Don Pyke will use the momentary pause in his team's freefall from grace, the Crows' bye, to attempt to put his finger on how it has come to this.

More importantly, he needs to figure out if his side's bitterly disappointing campaign is salvageable.

Because the popular belief is that the Crows are cooked.

In their first visit to the MCG since their grand final loss to Richmond, Adelaide looked a side completely bereft of confidence in an embarrassing loss to Hawthorn last Saturday.

In their 13th game since playing off for their third AFL flag, the Crows have some questioning whether their premiership window is shut after they sputtered to the third-lowest score - 4.8 (32) - in their history.

The dispirited performance saw them slump to a 6-7 record with a fourth loss in a row.

They are a game outside the eight in 11th and face West Coast, Richmond and Geelong when they resume.

Injuries, the mysterious pre-season camp, lack of form, reports of disharmony; so much has gone wrong for Adelaide that it would be easy to write the season off and start preparing for next year.

But they've never been a club to do that and presumably won't start now.

Injuries have clearly been a huge factor and there's some light at the end of the tunnel on that front.

Rory Sloane, Rory Laird, Riley Knight, Luke Brown and Tom Lynch are all in the frame to play the Eagles.

Embattled skipper Taylor Walker should also benefit from another week of conditioning without the rigours of a game.

They will get some able bodies back, but where will they be at mentally?

Key figures at the club, including chairman Rob Chapman and Pyke, have admitted there are parts of the psychologically distressing training camp on the Gold Coast they would do differently, if at all, if they had their time again.

After the deflating Hawks loss, a week after losing to unfancied Fremantle, former player and Adelaide broadcaster Stephen Rowe called for the club to, quite simply, tell the fans what's wrong.

The perception in some quarters remains that there is still 'something' from the camp that is bugging the players.

Whether they choose to engage in such a public cleansing of the soul (doubtful) or not, they most certainly need to do a bit of collective soul-searching in a bid to rediscover the adventurous spirit that propelled them to last season's minor premiership.

If they can do that - and it's a big if - a finals berth is not beyond them.