Walsh looms large in Crows AFL final win

Phil Walsh was with Adelaide at the MCG on Saturday night.

He was there in the way the Crows played and he was there in the hearts and minds of his players, who have rallied so bravely since he was taken from them in the most tragic of circumstances in July.

Anyone who doubts the profound effect the deceased coach still has on his team need only watch Riley Knight pound his chest and point skywards in an emotional goal celebration to know his memory still looms large at West Lakes.

The 20-year-old will always share a special bond with Walsh, who told him he would make his AFL debut in their last conversation before he died.

“Phil’s been a driving force behind our run to the finals – he helped us get here and he was out there with us tonight,” Knight said after Adelaide’s stunning elimination final win over the Western Bulldogs.

“Walshy helped me get to where I am now and I think the way that we were able to play (for him) is as good as it gets.”

Knight has had to deal with more than his fair share of tragedy at such a young age having lost close friend Adam Dixon, who was killed in a car accident last year – his first with the Crows.

“He was a huge force behind my career as well, so it was for both of them,” Knight said of his heartfelt tribute after each of his two goals.

“To have both of those special people behind me is something I’ll always cherish.

“Adam’s family have just been amazing to me through tough times. He was a really close mate of mine and I know he was up there watching over me tonight.”

Interim coach Scott Camporeale has done a superb job after taking over in such unprecedented circumstances and he acknowledged Walsh’s ongoing role in the Crows’ unlikely finals run.

“They all want to do Phil proud, no doubt about that,” Camporeale said.

“So deep down, even though we don’t cover it off every day, Phil is with them.”

Adelaide’s seven-point win over the Dogs set up a semi-final clash against Hawthorn at the MCG on Friday night.

While the Crows feel a deep sense of satisfaction and pride with their elimination final win, they’re not stopping there.

“The philosophy that Phil brought into this club is that you should never just be comfortable, you should never just be happy with where you are – you should always be striving for success,” Knight said.

“There’s no point getting to the finals and just being happy you got there – we want to go through and do some real damage.

“We’ll go into next week really confident and hopefully we’ll get the job done.

“But we won’t stop. If we get there this year then great, but if not we’ll keep going till we do.”

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