Crows' strong culture will help fill leadership void

A CULTURE built on instilling confidence and belief in the entire squad will allow Adelaide to fill the leadership void left by the absence of inspirational co-captains Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall.

While Phillips – the AFLW's reigning best and fairest – likes her chances of playing this year after rupturing her ACL in last season's AFLW Grand Final victory against Carlton, Randall will miss the entire season as she recovers from a torn ACL sustained in the first week of pre-season training in late November.

Both players have been outstanding leaders for the Crows since the competition's inception in 2017.

But Crows defender Marijana Rajcic said a key part of the Crows' success, which started under inaugural coach Bec Goddard before being carried on by Matthew Clarke this year, had been about spreading leadership among the entire group.

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"We have so many leaders within our club that it's not just them (Phillips and Randall)," Rajcic told womens.afl.

"They might be the faces of the club and with the experience and the talent that they have, but it's probably been the foundation set from even Bec Goddard right through.

"That's one thing that is very special about our team and our culture, is that we don't rely on one person to be the leader.

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"We share that load, which is probably a great thing if you're looking at it.

"I don't feel like there is a leadership void to fill because everyone's pulling their weight.

"Those two girls (Phillips and Randall) are still in and amongst the group and they lead by example, but even when they're not there, they've instilled that foundation that the younger girls can step up and do the job."

Rajcic nominated All-Australian midfielders Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard, defender Sarah Allen and gun forward Stevie-Lee Thompson, who was the competition's leading goalkicker in 2019, as some of the club's young leaders.

Rajcic, 30, is herself no stranger to leadership having captained W-League soccer club Adelaide United before making the switch to Australian football.

She said while losing Randall in pre-season was a huge blow, it presents a chance for other players to make their mark.

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"Any time that an injury comes up it's an opportunity for someone else to step up and grab it with both hands," Rajcic said.

"We're obviously proud of our achievements in 2019, but 2020 is a whole new ballgame.

"We've got eight new faces, young local talent as well with a bit of mix of experience.

"I'm really looking forward to it."

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Rajcic was nominated in the 40-player Virgin Australia AFLW All-Australian squad after an outstanding season in defence.

And while she'd love to go up forward, she's enjoying playing down back.

"From my soccer background, I played striker all my life so I love scoring goals, I love assisting, I love creating things, so naturally I do enjoy attacking," she said.

"In a way, I get to do that from the back as well.

"I get to start that play and work well with the team defence at the back."

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