Staring down the barrel of a major upset AFL loss two months ago could pay massive dividends for Adelaide in their preliminary final against Geelong.
Crows coach Don Pyke said they learned invaluable lessons in round 19, rebounding from a 50-point deficit early in the third term against Collingwood at the MCG.
The clash ended in a draw thanks to a goal after the siren to Crows forward Mitch McGovern, who will miss the preliminary final because of hamstring soreness.
Adelaide came off a nine-day break for the Collingwood match and Pyke said it influenced how they had handled the 15-day gap between their qualifying final win over GWS and Friday night’s clash at Adelaide Oval.
The controversial pre-finals bye, which many want scrapped, means Adelaide have played only two games this month.
The bye was introduced last season and the two winning qualifying finals teams, Geelong and GWS, failed to make the grand final.
But Pyke says they are confident their preparations, including a brief trip last week to the Gold Coast, will bear fruit against Geelong.
“We sort of backed the group off (before Collingwood) and, to be honest, we didn’t come out and play anywhere near the level we had played the previous week,” Pyke said.
“So we’re mindful of that but, again, these are things we learn.
“As you go throughout the year, you don’t pull every right rein. You find at times you might have got something wrong.
“And again, we don’t know until tomorrow night but we’re very confident that the way we have trained in the following two weeks after the qualifying final put us in a good spot for tomorrow night.”
Pyke also said on Thursday that if the Crows won, McGovern would push for a grand-final recall.
The Crows regain vice-captain Rory Sloane (appendix) and lose defender Brodie Smith (knee reconstruction), with Andy Otten coming in for McGovern.
“It was a bridge too far for tomorrow night, but we remain hopeful,” Pyke said of McGovern.
“Should we progress, we’ll give him every chance.”
The Cats sprang a selection surprise, naming Nakia Cockatoo, and Tom Lonergan returns from last week’s illness.
They dropped James Parsons and Zach Guthrie.
A huge focus at the first bounce will be where Geelong start Patrick Dangerfield, given his best-afield performance at full-forward in last week’s semi-final win over Sydney.
Given Adelaide play a team defence, as opposed to Sydney’s man-on-man strategy, Dangerfield is much more likely to switch regularly between the midfield and attack.
The two teams will take poor recent preliminary final records into Friday night’s clash.
Since their last premiership in 1998, the Crows have lost four prelims, most recently in 2012.
Geelong won four out of five preliminary finals as they claimed three premierships between 2007-11.
But since then, they have fallen just short twice of the grand final.
Last year, Sydney bounced them with seven goals to nil in the first quarter of their preliminary final at the MCG