After a heroic lunge towards the 2012 grand final, Adelaide unsurprisingly looks to have a bevy of "automatic inclusions" and few gaps in its "best" 22.
With Michael Doughty retired, Sam Shaw and Brodie Smith injured, and Brodie Martin and Graham Johncock apparently heading to the forward line, there are currently vacancies on the flanks in defence. Pacy, feisty utility Matthew Jaensch looks ready to cement a permanent role after 34 games in three seasons. His rivals include tall flanker Andy Otten, up and coming small defender Luke Brown, and forgotten former Tiger Richard Tambling. Otten has played 21 games in two seasons since missing all of 2010 due to a serious knee injury, but performed well in the 2012 preliminary final and his best surpasses anything his competitors have shown so far. It is expected that the talented Smith (collarbone) will return early in the home and away season, and Shaw was impressive. We expect Luke Thompson as the back-up tall. We're backing Ben Rutten, Daniel Talia, Brent Reilly, Shaw, and Smith to be the "locks" when fit, with Jaensch, Otten, and Brown to fight it out for one remaining position. Odds are two of them will see significant game time this year. Pick the flanker who looks to be playing best in the final rounds of the pre-season.
Smokey: Matthew Jaensch has pace and looks more ready than competitors.
Patrick Dangerfield, Rory Sloane, Nathan van Berlo, Scott Thompson and David Mackay are the core of a gifted, hardy group of on-ballers. The only likely openings appear to be in the secondary midfield, where Bernie Vince and Richard Douglas will be under pressure from talented youngsters Sam Kerridge, Brad Crouch, and Aidan Riley. Crouch, yet to play and 18, and Kerridge, 19 (one game) will play, but you'd expect they will be nursed through at such an early point of their careers. The less-hyped Riley (five games in 2012) could be as good a prospect to break through. But all three will rely on injuries and form slumps to get regular games – the Crows midfielders are a healthy lot.
Smokey: Youngster Brad Crouch may have his nose ahead of Kerridge and Riley early in the NAB Cup, but all three will get games, and form closer to season's start will determine the pecking order.
Sam Jacobs is entrenched as Adelaide ruckman, but with the departure of Kurt Tippett, a chasm opens up for the remaining ruck/forwards on the Crows list. And the former Bomber rookie Josh Jenkins looks well ahead of his more experienced rival Shaun McKernan, and raw prospect Lewis Johnston. Last year, Jenkins played 11 games in his debut season, while McKernan, in his third season managed only six senior appearances. Jenkins outstripped McKernan for possessions, marks, goals kicked and tackles laid. Inconsistent but dynamic, Jenkins has the aggression to complement potential superstar key forward Taylor Walker. Small forwards Jason Porplyzia and Ian Callinan pick themselves after their excellent form last year, and it appears experienced and talented swingman Graham Johncock is heading forward, leaving few vacancies. Matthew Wright has graduated to become a midfielder who rests forward and he ought to be joined by the likes of on-ballers Sloane and Dangerfield when they aren't benched.
Smokey: Josh Jenkins is as unheralded as any player in an increasingly accomplished division.
Shaw Rutten Jaensch
Smith* Talia Reilly
Mackay van Berlo Sloane
Porplyzia Jenkins Wright
Johncock Walker Callinan
Jacobs Thompson Dangerfield
Vince Henderson Douglas Crouch
On the fringes:
Sam Kerridge, Aidan Riley, Jared Petrenko, Andy Otten, Brodie Martin, Shaun McKernan, Tom Lynch, Luke Thompson
There is a lack of depth in the talls, so the likes of McKernan, Thompson and Lynch may see more game time than some more highly-rated midfielders.