New year has plenty of challenges for dominant Crows

REIGNING AFLW premier Adelaide won't rely on its dominant charge towards last season's title as it eyes back-to-back flags.

The Crows open their championship defence against Brisbane at Hickey Park on Saturday.

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After losing last year's opening game to the Western Bulldogs by one point, the Crows won their next eight matches, with their final three victories by an average margin of 57 points.

Crows coach Matthew Clarke said the addition of four new sides to the competition made it difficult to predict what would happen this year.

Matthew Clarke isn't taking anything for granted. Picture: AFL Photos

"Footy generally, there's a follow the leader type mentality that does occur," Clarke said.

"The AFLW is a little bit different in that it's so dynamic, and so changing year to year, that you can't use last year's form guide as a guide.

"So many new players, four new teams and so I'm sure teams that we come up against will use that as some reference point.

"But the reality is, I think it will be vastly different this season, so I don't think last year will be much of a guide at all."

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The pressure of being the hunted hasn't affected the Crows heading into this season.

"It gets thrown around a little bit, but from my perspective the game starts and the players just react to the contest ahead of them," Clarke said.

"I don't buy into it too much, that might get put around and maybe some of our players are experiencing that.

"I haven't seen it in the way they're approaching training or the way they've played in our trial games, we'll wait and see."

The Crows are taking a cautious approach with superstar Erin Phillips in her recovery from the torn ACL sustained in last year's Grand Final.

"We need to be mindful and realistic about as much as she wants to get back really quickly, as much as we want her back really quickly, it's ultimately going to be a medical decision," Clarke said.

"She'll be ready when the medicos say she's done all the work and her knee is in the condition that it needs to be in order to play.

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"The speculation will remain and that's OK, that's natural, but ultimately that decision will lie with the medical team."

Ruck Rhiannon Metcalfe – who missed all of last season with a torn ACL – is expected to be available to play in the next couple of weeks.

Rhiannon Metcalfe will be a handy inclusion when she returns to the Crows side. Picture: AFL Photos

Forward Chloe Scheer had a minor setback in her rehab from a torn ACL, while Deni Varnhagan, who injured her knee in the trial game against Fremantle, is set to return in the second half of the season.

The Crows are also without All-Australian defender Chelsea Randall (ACL) this season.