Blues need to protect Cripps, says former skipper

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Former Carlton great Mark Maclure has called on the Blues to provide greater protection for their skipper Patrick Cripps, saying teammates are not lending physical support against Cripps’ opponents.

Maclure, who captained the Blues and played in three premierships from 1979-1981, compared Carlton’s failure to help Cripps deal with opponents to the aggression Collingwood teammates had shown in protecting their young star Nick Daicos from his taggers.

Patrick Cripps is coming in for plenty of attention and needs greater protection, says former Carlton great Mark Maclure. Credit: Getty Images

“They’ve got 17 blokes out on the field who can help him [Cripps],” said Maclure, who is renowned for his forthright views. “They don’t do anything about it.”

Cripps has been relatively subdued or beaten in Carlton’s recent losses to Adelaide, St Kilda and then the Brisbane Lions, who played tough midfielder and ex-Bulldog Josh Dunkley on the Carlton skipper. The Crows deployed their skipper Jordan Dawson on Cripps, while St Kilda also used their captain, Jack Steele, in an aggressive lockdown role on the 2022 Brownlow medallist.

Dunkley and Dawson were close to best on ground in those games against the Blues.

Maclure said the Blues could make the game less comfortable for Cripps’ opponent by blocking or targeting that opposition midfielder. “Make it uncomfortable for the tagger,” he said. “They don’t do anything about it. It’s an issue.

“Who is doing it? No one. You need someone who goes to knock them [Cripps’ opponents] over.”

Patrick Cripps handballs during the round-six clash with St Kilda.Credit: Getty Images

The importance of stopping Cripps was highlighted by one Saints player during half-time of their round-six game against the Blues, as reported by The Age. The player turned to a teammate and said, “you stop Cripps, you stop Carlton”.

St Kilda coach Ross Lyon then sent Steele, who was just recovered from a broken collarbone, on to his Carlton counterpart. Cripps, who had 20 disposals to half-time, had minimal impact in the second half.

Maclure identified ball movement, especially from the back half, and scoring via ball movement as the major overall problem facing Carlton.

“They can’t move the ball well – that’s the problem,” he said. “Scoring from the centre bounce, scoring from the back half. It’s an issue.”

Patrick Cripps is tackled by the Saints’ Brad Crouch.Credit: AFL Photos

Carlton’s ball movement has been slow in some losses this season, while the Blues also have lacked scoring power in an attack that is heavily dependent on the aerial prowess and talent of Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay.

Maclure said he liked coach Michael Voss, but the coach had to redress these failings. “I like him … but he really has to fix these things or there’ll be questions asked.”

Maclure pointed out that the Brisbane Lions were a strong team and that it was not surprising that they had beaten the Blues. “Brisbane are a pretty damn good side. I don’t understand the big issue with Brisbane beating them.”

Prior to the 2023 season, former Collingwood champion and coach Nathan Buckley predicted that Carlton would miss the finals. He said the Blues were too reliant on a “plan A” of winning stoppages and their aerial capacity in attack through Curnow and McKay.

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