Craig's Crows enter new AFL territory - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Craig's Crows enter new AFL territory

By Sam Lienert 09/07/2006 07:48:00 PM Comments (0)

Adelaide coach Neil Craig says the Crows' commanding position at the top of the AFL ladder is creating a pressure of expectation like the club has never experienced.

The convincing style in which Adelaide squeezed the life out of reigning premier Sydney in its 15.11 (101) to 8.14 (62) victory at the SCG showed it is the clear frontrunner for this year's flag.

But Craig said that status, with the associated extra praise and attention it brought, created its own challenges.

"We are certainly in new territory as far as our club is concerned," Craig said.

"So the reality is people can speculate all they like, we can speculate, we don't know how we are going to handle any situation.

"The club has never been in this situation ever in its short history.

"What I do know is that our players understand the pressures that comes from trying to be good and hopefully the best in the competition and you can't separate them."

Though Adelaide won premierships in 1997 and 1998, it did so from fourth and fifth positions respectively.

And while it took out the minor premiership last season, it did not reach the summit of the ladder until it defeated West Coast in round 22, with the Eagles heading the table from rounds four to 21.

The Crows' impressive form was underlined by the fact that the 39-point margin was Sydney's biggest defeat at the SCG since Adelaide's last trip there, when it won by 41 points in round four last season.

Aside from third-placed Melbourne - which notched its 10th victory in 11 games with a gutsy win over Brisbane at the Gabba - the form of their nearest rivals is not threatening.

The Eagles defeated Hawthorn at the MCG, but needed a huge fight to overcome the 14th-placed Hawks and have looked shaky for some time.

Fourth-placed Collingwood was thrashed by St Kilda at Telstra Dome, the Saints winning 19.8 (122) to 9.9 (63).

After the Magpies won eight of their first 10 games, they have lost three of their past four, by 47, 47 and 59-point margins to cast doubt over their credibility as a premiership contender.

The 'Pies only maintained their top four berth because the fifth-placed Western Bulldogs suffered an upset loss to the Kangaroos (13th) at the MCG, 13.16 (94) to 12.10 (82).

High-marking Kangaroos forward Nathan Thompson continued his wonderful season with five goals.

The Swans are in sixth position, but their chances of defending the 2005 flag look dim, with the result their third loss in the past four rounds.

St Kilda, however, is starting to look dangerous.

The 59-point dismissal of Collingwood came on the back of a 70-point whipping of Hawthorn last round, only the third time this season the Saints have strung back-to-back wins together.

With Justin Koschitzke, Aaron Hamill and Raphael Clarke all expected back in the side within two or three weeks, the Saints' assault on the premiership could be about to gather pace.

While their first half of the season was patchy, they are only one win out of the top four and their only losses in the past seven rounds came against Adelaide and Melbourne.

Rounding out the top eight is Richmond, which comfortably beat Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium to continue its solid form.

In the round's other matches, Fremantle defeated Essendon at Subiaco on Friday night to stay in touch with the top eight, one win behind the Tigers in ninth spot.

And Geelong thrashed Carlton at Telstra Dome to keep its season alive, two wins behind the Tigers in 10th position.

Port Adelaide, in 11th, and sharing a 6-8 record with the Cats, is the only other club with realistic finals hopes.

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