Adelaide coach Don Pyke knows his AFL pacesetters have come a long way.
But just how far, he says, will be revealed by Sydney in Friday night’s AFL heavyweight stoush at Adelaide Oval.
The bout has been a painful wait for Pyke and his Crows, who still smart from their last meeting against the Swans — a semi-final six-goal loss last year.
Sydney exposed weaknesses which Pyke went about fixing — being stronger at contested ball, implementing Swans-like military-precise defence.
Pyke’s tweaks have worked: the Crows, six points clear in top spot, are assured an initial home final.
But they haven’t yet played Sydney.
“It’s a good chance to see the areas (where) we think we have improved on against a high-quality opponent,” Pyke said.
“That was a disappointing way to end our season last year.
“And we get a chance on Friday night … to see how far we have come.”
Pyke said the Crows’ lofty perch this season evidenced they had learnt the lessons from that semi-final defeat.
“Where we are sitting reflects that we have (come a long way),” he said.
“Some of our performances during the year and our numbers would reflect we have tightened up in defensive stuff, our contested ball stuff has been of a really high standard for pretty much the whole season.
“I have no doubt we have improved. How far, I don’t know.”That is the unknown until you come up against quality opposition like Sydney.”
The Swans’ turnaround this season could be the stuff of legend: six straight losses to start, now sitting in fifth spot.
Sydney are the team no rival club wants to meet in September but a Crows win will likely end the top-four hopes of John Longmire’s side.
Pyke said the chance of putting a dent in the Swans won’t motivate Adelaide.
“It’s less about us doing something to their path to the finals, it’s more about us continuing to play the way we want to,” he said.
But Pyke was well aware of the confidence boost for Friday night’s victor ahead of a possible finals re-match.
“One thing you’re mindful of when you’re playing any sport, really, is the impression you leave with the opposition, in terms of how you want to play,” he said.