Adelaide coach Brenton Sanderson admits to feeling nervous ahead of meeting fellow winless outfit Sydney in what he describes as one of the most important games for his AFL club.
Sanderson has deliberately avoided telling his players of the ramifications of another defeat and a 0-3 win-loss record, from which teams rarely recover to play finals.
“That’s very negative to come in and say to the boys ‘lose this week, we’re 0-3’,” Sanderson told reporters on Friday.
“We have picked a side that we think can win.
“From a strategy point of view, we have got some ideas that we think we might be able to expose Sydney in different areas.
“But ultimately we just need to play well for four quarters … the competition is so even, you can’t play in fits and spurts.”
Sanderson made five changes for Saturday’s game, his side’s first home match at Adelaide Oval.
Midfielder Matt Crouch, 18, will make his AFL debut, replacing his older brother Brad, who has a broken leg.
“The guys we bring in are real competitors and are going to give us a contest,” Sanderson said.
“Matt Crouch … what a great opportunity for a first-gamer to come in, in one of the most important games for the club.
“This game was built for Matt. He’s a contested ball player, he’s a tackler, he loves it hard. At some point in the game he’s going to have an influence.”
The Swans made two forced changes with Craig Bird (calf) and Sam Reid (achilles) replaced by Lewis Roberts-Thomson and Jeremy Laidler but Sanderson said Sydney still demand respect.
“Along with Geelong and Hawthorn, they have been the three best sides probably over the last 10 years,” he said.
“They’re going to come here breathing fire as well. They won’t want to start the season 0-3, like we don’t.
“They will make it really ugly at times with the way they play, which is fine. We have got to look for ways to try and exploit that as best we can.
“I’m always nervous. Even in pre-season or in round 20 if you’re sitting on top of the ladder, you always have anxiety.
“But I’m really confident with our squad, with our depth, and the way that we play, is going to be sustainable for 22 rounds.”