Caretaker Adelaide coach Scott Camporeale says his late predecessor Phil Walsh can take the credit for a gripping three-point triumph against arch-rivals Port Adelaide.
In a Sunday classic, the Crows climbed back into the AFL’s top eight – and left Port’s finals hopes hanging by a thread – with a stirring 18.8 (116) to 17.11 (113) win.
Before a record crowd at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval – somehow 54,468 people crammed into a stadium with a 53,500 capacity – the Crows prevailed in an emotionally-charged fixture which was dedicated to Walsh.
“This means a lot to the playing group in terms of being able to move forward,” Camporeale said.
“The four points are critical for us … but I think getting through what we have got through, and to get a win, has really galvanised the group, absolutely.”
Camporeale said the victory was built on Walsh’s foundations: team-first defence, relentless tackling, and manic pressure.
“The over-riding one was just get the job done,” Camporeale said, using a favourite Walsh phrase.
“He would have been proud of the guys.”
Adelaide twice held a six-goal lead – midway through the second term, and halfway through the third – only for Port to launch a trademark comeback, kicking 4.5 to two behinds in a frenetic final quarter.
Port remain anchored in 12th spot with just six wins but even defeated coach Ken Hinkley could appreciate the cracking contest – sort of.
“Phil himself (said) `look after the look of the game’ … and today as a spectacle we looked after the game,” Hinkley said of Walsh, who also worked at Port for 11 seasons as an assistant coach.
“I’m an emotional and disappointed coach who lost the game by three points. But the game itself was probably a pretty fair game.”
Walsh’s daughter Quinn presented Crows onballer Scott Thompson with the Phil Walsh medal, struck as a one-off for the best player afield.
Thompson collected a game-high 36 disposals and, with fellow onballer Patrick Dangerfield (27 touches), revelled in the dominance of ruckman Sam Jacobs.
The red-headed ruck recorded 51 hit outs and fed a ball-hungry Thompson and Dangerfield – the pair logged a decisive 15 centre clearances between them while the entire Port side could muster only a dozen.
“It definitely had a lot of meaning,” Thompson said of a win which lifted Adelaide to eighth spot.
“Phil spent the last nine months as the bloke in charge here and many, many years at Port Adelaide, so there was always going to be a little bit of emotion around.”