As AFL top-four berth is within Adelaide’s grasp, but it’s their performance during ‘junk time’ that is set to decide whether they’ll finish in the top two or not.
The jostling for top-four spots has become so tight that a few goals here or there could decide whether a team makes the cut.
Entering round 21, the Crows were just three per cent adrift of second-placed Sydney, and only marginally ahead of fourth-placed GWS (one per cent), and fifth-placed Geelong (4.1 per cent).
The Giants’ shock one-point loss to West Coast on Saturday night means Adelaide will be guaranteed a top-four finish if they beat Fremantle (away), Port Adelaide and West Coast (home) in their final three rounds.
But percentage could decide whether Adelaide land a top-two berth.
The Crows gave their percentage a whopping boost in last week’s 138-point trouncing of Brisbane, and they’ll aim to inflict another dose of pain on Sunday when they take on the struggling Dockers at Domain Stadium.
Adelaide are expected to stroll to victory. But it will be the size of the win that will garner the greater interest, with junk time in games set to take on huge meaning over coming weeks.
While Adelaide are flying high, the Dockers are still digesting a horror season that has yielded them just three wins and a glut of injuries.
One positive of their doomed campaign has been the ability to experiment with players.
Forward Chris Mayne has been one of those experiments, with the forward performing strongly as a defender in recent weeks.
The 27-year-old is set to be given another job down back as Fremantle attempt to halt a powerful Adelaide forward line that features Eddie Betts (54 goals), Josh Jenkins (52), Taylor Walker (40), Tom Lynch (32) and Mitch McGovern (25).
“We like his distribution down there,” Dockers coach Ross Lyon said of Mayne.
“He competes. His attitude has been exceptional all year.”
Rebounding defender Garrick Ibbotson was initially dropped for Sunday’s game.
But the 28-year-old was given a late reprieve after Lyon opted to include him instead of Tendai Mzungu.
Ibbotson has struggled for form this season, and there are rumours he could seek a trade elsewhere despite still having a year to run on his contract.
Lyon indicated he was keen to hang onto Ibbotson and help the defender regain his mojo.
“The first half of last year, he was All-Australian form,” Lyon said.
“Certainly, Garrick is a contracted player for us for the next few years, so we need to build him up and get him going.”
Fremantle recalled Connor Blakely, while the Crows welcomed back Scott Thompson and Mitch McGovern in place of Paul Seedsman (corked buttock) and Cam Ellis-Yolmen (omitted).