We answer six key questions heading into Thursday night’s qualifying final between Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney.
DOES THE GIANTS MIDFIELD HAVE THE TOUGHNESS AND MATURITY REQUIRED TO WIN BIG FINALS?
For anyone who watched the club’s performance in their maiden final 12 months ago against Sydney, the answer is a resounding yes.
But such intensity has been rarely seen from the Giants this season. They were poor against Geelong, who blitzed them for contested possession and tackled with more intent and vigour.
Worryingly for the Giants, it was a similar scenario in round one against the Crows when they were crushed by an avalanche of goals in the second half.
It’s time for the likes of Josh Kelly, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio and Lachie Whitfield to be the stars of today rather than the next big thing.
Giants midfielder Josh Kelly. Photo: AAP
CAN ADELAIDE OVERCOME THE LOSS OF RORY SLOANE?
If someone had said two years ago the Crows would start favourite in a final without Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane you’d load up on whoever they were playing.
The Crows are a more accomplished team now but this is a major test with Sloane out after appendix surgery.
Adelaide have struggled this year when the 27-year-old has been tagged so you’d think him not being out there at all will suit the Giants.
The catch is the Crows will have spent much of the fortnight planning without Sloane, and the likes of Matt and Brad Crouch and Richard Douglas are good enough to cover for him as a one off.
HAS THE END COME FOR STEVIE J?
It’s dangerous to write off a champion but getting axed on the eve of the finals does not bode well for the mercurial forward.
Not even an injury to Devon Smith, who plays a similar role to him, could save Johnson.
The veteran can still produce moments of brilliance but injuries have caught up with him. The mind is still there but he no longer has the body capable of getting the job done.
Also against him is the fact that he struggles to play back-to-back weeks
Outside of an injury, it will be difficult for Johnson to break back into the Giants’ team.
End of the line? Stevie J. Photo: AAP
ARE THE CROWS IN A FORM SLUMP?
At face value yes, but not if you scratch deeper. While losing the final two games of the home and away season is not ideal, the Crows could not have hoped for a better pipe opener to September action.
Against Sydney, they won many of the key statistical areas but let themselves down in front of goal to lose narrowly.
Despite missing bookends Taylor Walker and Daniel Talia, they were admirable in defeat against a West Coast team that was playing for its season.
In both games they were up against teams that had more on the line and competitive for long periods. Before that, they had won six games and drawn another.
The Crows faced an Eagles side playing for its season. Photo: AAP
WHICH DEFENCE IS BETTER EQUIPPED TO HANDLE THE FIREPOWER?
At one end there’s Walker, Josh Jenkins, Eddie Betts and Tom Lynch. At the other end there’s Jonathon Patton, Jeremy Cameron, Rory Lobb and Toby Greene.
???Alex Keath had shaped as a potential weak link for the Giants to exploit but Talia’s return along with Kyle Hartigan’s recent comeback gives the Crows’ defence more steel.
Whoever Jake Lever goes to will need to present well in order to stop him from zoning off as a third man up in marking contests.
The Giants’ defence has been their weakest third on paper but is now better equipped to withstand long periods of pressure.
Back in the side: Daniel Talia. Photo: AAP
DO THE GIANTS HAVE ONE BIG MAN TOO MANY IN THE FORWARD LINE?
Patton, Cameron and Lobb look an imposing combination on paper but problems arise when they don’t mark the ball as none are known for their pressure at ground level.
Locking the ball in their forward line has not been a strong suit for the Giants, and they will need to improve otherwise the Crows will cut them up on the rebound.
Matt de Boer’s inclusion will help but they will need one of their top-end recruits, possibly Jacob Hopper, to sacrifice their game for this blue-collar role.