Rory Sloane the heart and soul of the Crows
AT THE 14th minute mark of the final quarter on Saturday night, West Coast was collapsing under an avalanche of Crows pressure but had one last roll of the dice to get back in it.
Adelaide was leading 73-66 when the Eagles finally got the ball past centre and Liam Ryan broke away from the pack on the wing looking to kick the ball inside 50m, but he never had the chance.
Rory Sloane was tracking him from 10m away and as Ryan went to kick, the Crows' most tenacious player closed in, lunged at him with a tackle which caught him holding the ball.
Rory Laird handballed to Paul Seedsman who had a bounce, hit-up Curtly Hampton in the pocket and he kicked the set shot. All but game over.
It was so typical of Sloane who at one stage during Saturday night's game had more tackles than possessions.
"It was huge and it ended up in a goal," teammate Matt Crouch said of the tackle on Ryan.
"It just typifies what he's about. He's a pretty handy inclusion. Around the footy he brings that intensity, pressure and he can run really well away from stoppage.
"He was huge. His defensive efforts are the great part of his game and as a leader the guys love that from him."
Sloane plays selfless footy and finds a way of standing up in big moments when his team needs him.
He is the heart and soul of the Crows' side and when you take that out for 10 games it's impossible to replace.
Sloane finished with 14 disposals and 13 of them were contested which says it all.
Crows coach Don Pyke said the aim was simply to get the All-Australian midfielder through his first game back from injury by resting him forward at times as well, but Sloane delivered that and more.
"It was more about getting back out there and making sure he could get through the game and do what he does," Pyke said.
Yep, do what he does. Eight tackles and 53 pressure points which was the second most in his team behind Hugh Greenwood's 57.
But Sloane wasn't the only one to stand up in a game that could well save Adelaide's season.
The obvious ones were Taylor Walker's three goals, Matt Crouch's 32 disposals, Tom Doedee's fourth-quarter tackle and goal from the boundary and Curtly Hampton's stellar return to the AFL side.
But ruckman Sam Jacobs was huge in every sense.
Jacobs has been battling this season. His body looks to have felt every bit of 30 and a knock to the back early in the season has meant he's been playing through the pain barrier. But he can't have a rest because Adelaide hasn't got anyone else especially now Reilly O'Brien's season is over with shoulder surgery.
On Saturday night he had to come up against not one but two specialist ruckmen at West Coast in Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett and he beat them both.
Jacobs had 18 disposals, 39 hit-outs (some of them pearlers out the back), kicked 1.2 and set two other goals up.
Early in the third term he spilt the pack mark but got up and tackled Andrew Gaff to force the turnover and Darcy Fogarty kicked the goal.
He also took a contested mark in defence, set up a Myles Poholke goal with poise and skill and got the first clearance of a defining fourth quarter.
If Walker is the leader then Sloane and Sauce are the heartbeat of a team that for now is refusing to give up.
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