The death of Phil Walsh has given AFL flag favourites Adelaide a unique bond, Crows coach Don Pyke says.
The Crows flew into a home preliminary final with a 36-point drubbing of Greater Western Sydney in Thursday night’s qualifying final.
Pyke is in his second season as Adelaide coach, appointed after the killing of Walsh, who was stabbed to death by son Cy in July 2015.
Cy Walsh was found not guilty by reason of mental incompetence of murdering his father, who was in his first season as Adelaide coach.
“Our group has been through something really unique,” Pyke said after Adelaide’s 12.12 (84) to 6.12 (48) thrashing of GWS.
“Obviously the passing of the previous coach in Phil Walsh has challenged them. It’s an unprecedented event and these guys have gone through that.
“And often loss is an opportunity for growth.
“So they have got something unique as a group and that is good to be able to work with that because the guys now have a sense of each other.”
Pyke said his players’ “genuine care” for each other was evidenced in their reaction to stalwarts Sam Jacobs and Brodie Smith on Thursday night.
Smith is expected to require a knee reconstruction and be denied a shot at a premiership after being hurt just over 10 minutes into the match.
Jacobs fronted despite still grieving the death of his 31-year-old brother last week from an undisclosed illness.
“It’s never easy when a player is dealing with a tragedy in his family,” Pyke said of Jacobs.
“It was always going to be difficult, to be honest, for Sam. And that is a credit to him that he is able to come in and perform the way he did under those circumstances.
“His commitment to being a professional player and also his commitment to the team, that he didn’t want to let them down.
“You could see that afterwards each player and coaching staff were super-proud of Sam and what he was able to do, but at the same time sad for Sam as well.
“He has lost his brother and the result, as happy as we all are, we’re still sad in our hearts for Sam.”