With Gary Ablett again missing through his lingering shoulder injury, the main talking point was whether Patrick Cripps could further his time in the limelight by producing another good game of football.
His 31 disposals and 12 tackles in Carlton’s upset win over Port Adelaide the week prior meant Cripps was met in the centre square by a determined Andrew Raines, who simply did not let him out of his sight all game.
Many expected Raines to go to Marc Murphy in Bryce Gibbs’ absence, but it was Cripps who Rodney Eade identified as the man they needed to shut down.
This decision may have backfired, as it seemed Murphy went on to roam Etihad Stadium by himself on his way gathering 32 disposals (21 of which were uncontested) at 75 percent disposal efficiency.
Chris Yarran was also dominant, rebounding off half back with 25 disposals (22 uncontested) at 88%, even coasting through the corridor in the second term to kick a long running goal.
Once John Barker and his team realised Murphy had avoided a hard tag they deliberately moved him outside the contest, often starting him on the wing or joining Yarran across half back so his smart decision-making and ball use could be used effectively.
Cripps was still influential, proving hard to stop due to his mature inside game. He finished with 20 disposals (10 contested), seven clearances and laid six tackles – the most of any Carlton player.
By winning his own football, Cripps made it almost impossible for Raines (only eight disposals) to quell his impact on the game. However, Eade stuck with the match-up and the Suns run-with player’s frustrations boiled over, with Raines ultimately reported for striking Cripps in the last quarter.
Murphy’s measured and composed outside game once again underlined the Carlton captain’s class, and he would have enjoyed a free rein after battling through tags for most of his career.
The emergence of Cripps has given clubs a dilemma of who to run with in the Carlton midfield, and it will no doubt help the likes of Murphy, Yarran, Kade Simpson and Bryce Gibbs.
Barker elaborated on this point in his post-match press conference, saying that Gold Coast seeing fit to tag Cripps was “a very good thing for the Carlton Football Club”.
Gold Coast may have gotten too caught up in the hype that surrounded the 20 year old, forgetting that Murphy and Yarran respectively are A-grade footballers when given space. Clubs would be smart to learn from Gold Coast’s mistake in leaving such damaging midfielders to do as they please.
At 190 cm and 90 kgs, Cripps is a contested ball beast. However his outside game, running capacity and disposal by foot is not close to the standard of his captain Murphy, limiting his ability to be a really damaging midfielder – for now.
Although he was let off this game, the Carlton captain can expect the attention will be placed straight back on him next week against a young, exuberant and strong Western Bulldogs midfield.