Andrew Fagan grew Adelaide’s commercial power but the club fell from grace after the 2017 Grand Final on and off the field
Andrew Fagan grew Adelaide’s commercial power but the club fell from grace after the 2017 Grand Final on and off the field

How will Andrew Fagan be remembered by Crows fans?

Ultimately it will be the lows that punctuate Andrew Fagan's career as chief executive of one the AFL's biggest clubs.

He almost tasted the ultimate success.

Fagan took on the CEO role at West Lakes at the end of 2014 and within three years watched as his players lined up on the MCG in their trademark power stance before the first bounce of the 2017 Grand Final.

That they were trounced by a rampaging Richmond was not seen at the time as an omen of bad things to come. In hindsight, it should have been.

Crows CEO Andrew Fagan walks off the oval with the team after the 2017 Grand Final. Picture: Sarah Reed
Crows CEO Andrew Fagan walks off the oval with the team after the 2017 Grand Final. Picture: Sarah Reed

The Crows fall from grace was swift and brutal.

They embarked on a pre-season training camp designed to build character and spur them on to go one better that instead built a wall between the players and the administration.

In short it was an unmitigated PR disaster that refused to go away.

"The distraction that was the camp and the work of Collective Mind was a component piece but there were a bunch of other matters as well that probably started from how we recovered from the Grand Final loss, Fagan said as the Crows fell away and the pressure mounted.

"Collective Mind played its part; it was a massive distraction but we moved on from mid-season."

It's hard to say the club moved on - the sustained media heat and lack of success created so much pressure on Pyke that he eventually handed in his resignation.

Still, Fagan and his administration held their ground claiming that it was a blimp rather than a growing stain.

A multitude of players walked out on the club between 2018 and 2021, including fan favourite Eddie Betts as a perceived lack of culture was consistently levelled at the Crows.

New coach Matthew Nicks was on a hiding to nothing. The club lost 13-games straight and Fagan had to cop the brunt of angry fan backlash as the Crows slumped to their first-ever wooden spoon.

His papers might not have been stamped, but Fagan himself admitted he was already thinking about an exit.

"I initiated this conversation about a transition with former Chairman Rob Chapman more than a year ago," Fagan said.

The Crows have maintained a healthy membership and financial bottom line under their CEO of the past six and a bit years, allowing them to not rely on the AFL for assistance during the pandemic and remain "independent".

Fagan and Chapman after the Crows announced they had taken over the Adelaide Bite (now Giants) baseball team. Picture: AAP / Kelly Barnes
Fagan and Chapman after the Crows announced they had taken over the Adelaide Bite (now Giants) baseball team. Picture: AAP / Kelly Barnes

These are seen as key markers in any career and if you base Fagan's stint on this, as well as the establishment of the Crows' Esports franchise and programs for schools and the purchase of the Adelaide Giants baseball team to give the club different revenue streams, then his time at the helm at West Lakes looks rosy.

He also had the club on its way to leaving its current base at West Lakes, which has been criticised of late as construction continues around it, for greener pastures at North Adelaide before COVID-19 struck.

But football trades on a different currency - winning games, making grand finals, bringing home premierships.

Fagan's stocks rose high early, but plunged late.

He admitted on Thursday night that it was time for change and a new direction - after last year saying he wasn't going anywhere.

"In recent times we have made a number of key decisions, relating to both football personnel and other areas of strategic focus, with a view to best preparing the club for a post-pandemic Australian sporting landscape," he said.

"The CEO who leads the club through this process must be in it for the long haul and I am not that person, and I firmly believe this position should not be a long-term role for any individual."

Adelaide added a women's side under Fagan's tenure and they won two AFLW premierships.

It will stand among his achievements, with Chapman last year declaring getting an AFLW team to potentially be the best thing the club has ever done.

Fagan with Crows Women's AFL players Jessica Sedunary and Ebony Marinoff and Workskil CEO Nicole Dwyer. Picture: AAP / Mike Burton
Fagan with Crows Women's AFL players Jessica Sedunary and Ebony Marinoff and Workskil CEO Nicole Dwyer. Picture: AAP / Mike Burton

But he should always be proudest of the steel needed to steer the Crows through its darkest time - the 2015 death of Phil Walsh.

That was a shaky time for a steady hand and Fagan - not even a year in the job and from a different sport in rugby - proved his worth having been at the helm of the ACT Brumbies in 2009 when player Shawn Mackay was hit by a car and died during a tour of South Africa.

You can't prepare for your senior coach to be murdered in his first year at the job, but the way Fagan and the Crows dealt with the fallout and emerged won many admirers in the footy industry.

"Phil's death was a tragedy beyond comprehension," he said.

Fagan at the Phil Walsh memorial. Picture: AAP / David Mariuz
Fagan at the Phil Walsh memorial. Picture: AAP / David Mariuz

"The days that followed were tough. There was much to do and sleep was hard to come by. What I remember with absolute clarity however is slipping into Adelaide Oval on the Sunday to watch in amazement as 20,000 fans came to pay their respects to our fallen coach and wounded club."

But when the "transition" period to a new CEO is up and he leaves his West Lakes office for the final time, it will be the lows that follow him closest out the door and ultimately define how the majority of Crows fans judge his tenure.

Originally published as How will Andrew Fagan be remembered by Crows fans?


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