West Adelaide’s Riley Thilthorpe working out at home during football’s shut down period. Picture: Tricia Watkinson.
West Adelaide’s Riley Thilthorpe working out at home during football’s shut down period. Picture: Tricia Watkinson.

Crows dodge big AFL draft bullet after training breach

Adelaide dodged a draft bullet.

After what seemed like an eternity, the AFL on Monday finally handed down its penalties on the Crows for their Barossa Valley breach of league COVID-19 protocols and saved them from years of pain.

Assistant coach Ben Hart - a dual Crows premiership defender - has been made a "scapegoat'', copping a six-week ban for overseeing a kicking drill involving two groups of eight players after the AFL had clearly stated players had been outlawed from training in more than pairs.

The 16 Adelaide players - only one, Kyle Hartigan, was aged over 23 - who were isolating at the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort were handed suspended one-match sanctions for their roles in the training session.

It was a slap on the wrist for the Crows, who are adamant they made an "honest mistake'' and were not trying to gain a competitive edge on their rivals.

The penalty could have been much worse and set Adelaide's rebuilding plan back years.

Prior to the AFL announcing the Crows' punishment there was talk the club could be hit with the loss of two key draft picks and a $100,000 fine.

The taking away of draft selections would have rocked the club to its core.

Luke Edwards in action for South Australia. Picture: Mark Brake/AFL Photos/via Getty Images
Luke Edwards in action for South Australia. Picture: Mark Brake/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

In a deliberate and carefully thought out plan, Adelaide - realising its premiership window had shut after missing the finals in consecutive years following its ill-fated 2017 grand final appearance - at the end of last year traded away key veterans to rivals to stock up with draft picks.

It will enter this year's draft with two first-rounders, two second-rounders and two third-rounders - a bounty from which to rebuild.

It has first call on a top father-son prospect, Glenelg's Luke Edwards, who is the son of 321-game club great Tyson Edwards, and Next Generation Academy prospects, North Adelaide's Tariek Newchurch and Sturt's James Borlase.

All three have big raps on them.

If the Crows, who are closely tracking exciting West Adelaide tall Riley Thilthorpe who is a contender to go with the No. 1 selection, were to lose two key draft picks this year it would have ramifications for a decade.

They previously felt the pain of losing their top two selections in 2012 as punishment for the Kurt Tippett salary cap scandal, not entering the draft until pick 62.

Given the current young state of Adelaide's list, losing picks this year would have been a devastating setback.

So as much as the Crows, who avoided a hefty fine because of the financial crisis COVID-19 has left on clubs, have been left embarrassed by their "bad mistake'' in the Barossa, internally they would be breathing a big sigh of relief.

The future is suddenly much brighter.

Originally published as Crows dodge big draft bullet


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