AFL players voted Patrick Cripps the most valuable player in the game. Pic: Michael Klein
AFL players voted Patrick Cripps the most valuable player in the game. Pic: Michael Klein

MVP done, Cripps eyes next goal

Patrick Cripps is eyeing influence in attack as his next goal as he prepares to take his game to a new level in 2020.

Labelled a "monster" by AFL great Greg Williams, the Carlton co-captain's blistering season was rewarded with the AFL Players' Association Most Valuable Player award on Thursday night.

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And the 24-year-old midfield beast said he planned to use the next six months to add the title of scoring weapon to his CV.

 

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"You pride yourself on adding strings to your bow every off-season," Cripps said.

"I'm still only 24, so I feel like I've got a lot of good footy in me.

"As the team gets better and we play together, the cohesion is really going to help. I'll keep getting fitter and I might try and drop a bit of weight in the off-season, but I really want to hit the scoreboard a bit more.

"The really elite midfielders hit around 20 goals a year and Dangerfield usually hits 20 a lot, and I think that's the sign of a really good team."

Thirteen players have completed the MVP-Brownlow double since the award's inception in 1982 but Cripps said he believed he'd "be battling" to take out the game's top individual prize in just over three weeks.

The star ballwinner - who topped the competition for clearances this year - said there was special merit in the peer-voted award.

"There's not a more (esteemed award) in terms of respect and pride … that's the award that you love to (win)," he said.

"You love playing against the best players, and when you compete against guys and they actually vote for you for the top gong, it's pretty awesome to be honest.

"Six years ago I didn't think I'd be in this position. So it's pretty cool."

 

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Patrick Cripps is admired by fans and rivals. Pic: AFL Photos
Patrick Cripps is admired by fans and rivals. Pic: AFL Photos

 

Williams, who won two Brownlow medals and two AFLPA MVP awards in his 250-game career, has worked closely with the Leigh Matthews Trophy winner throughout his career and said the Blues bull would be his first pick as the league's most valuable player.

"It's pretty obvious where he is already," Williams told the AFLPA.

"You've got guys like (Nat) Fyfe, (Patrick) Dangerfield and (Lachie) Neale at the top of their games.

"But if you had to pick one, and it's a bloody hard pick, I'd be picking Cripps.

"He's already got the superstar status, but it's a longevity thing as well. He wants to do it for a long time and hopefully he can get through his career without many injuries and become one of the all-time greats."

Dangerfield - president of the AFLPA - said Cripps' contested ball ability and attacking threat had seen him develop into one of the competition's most dangerous players.

"Patrick has had a super season and his ability in contested situations is as good as any player I've seen," the Cats superstar said.

"As a midfielder, he can do it all on the inside and outside and, with his huge frame, he's like a key forward in the air.

"His ability to back it up week-after-week despite an up-and-down season for the Blues is a huge reason he's been able to secure the MVP."

Tim Kelly was second in MVP voting while young Blue Sam Walsh was a standout pick among first-year players. Pic: AAP
Tim Kelly was second in MVP voting while young Blue Sam Walsh was a standout pick among first-year players. Pic: AAP

Each player votes for the three teammates he considers to have been the most valuable player this season, with all players then voting on the nominees from the 17 other clubs.

Dangerfield is favourite to win this year's Brownlow Medal but he was not in contention, having not made the top three Geelong players to be nominated by their fellow Cats.

Fellow All-Australians Brodie Grundy and Nat Fyfe rounded out the top five.

Cripps led the competition for clearances this season and became the first player since 2014 to come from a team that finished outside the top eight and claim the Leigh Matthews Trophy.

Williams said a focus had been on "next level" work at stoppages to combat the extra attention from opposition teams, and said his ability to deal with expectation was a mark of the 24-year-old.

"He's very tough and a very mature guy for his age," he said.

"He's captain and he should be too, because you see the way he plays and he leads his teammates. He's played some games this year that are as good as anyone's played.

"He just lifts everyone and he carries them over the line. He really is an amazing player and a great club man and a team guy. You can just see the respect that he's got from everyone at the club."

 

Dylan Grimes is reliable and tough. Pic: Getty Images
Dylan Grimes is reliable and tough. Pic: Getty Images

 

TIGER GRIMES IS ONE TOUGH COOKIE

The league's most courageous player is a Tiger for the first time.

Defender Dylan Grimes - who only 24 hours prior claimed his first All-Australian blazer - was voted by his peers to take out the AFL Players' Association Robert Rose Most Courageous Player Award ahead of Lions hard nut Mitch Robinson and Eagles skipper Shannon Hurn.

The Richmond defender said the tag of "courage" was highly-sought and valued by all players.

"I enjoy the physical side of the game and pushing myself physically, but some of the stories we've shared this year personify courage," he said.

"It's a huge honour to be standing here and to be recognised for that ... (to be rewarded) for something that a lot of people want to be recognised for is pretty special."

Grimes said finding his passion outside of football - producing wine at Mount Macedon Winery - had only added to his game.

"Courage sometimes is the challenge to be yourself," he said.

"For me, I always had a passion outside of footy and hats off to Richmond for encouraging me to do something completely different and pursue something that was not your normal career outside of footy."

 

Eagles skipper Shannon Hurn wasn’t voted captain of the All-Australian team but got the nod from his peers. Pic: Getty Images
Eagles skipper Shannon Hurn wasn’t voted captain of the All-Australian team but got the nod from his peers. Pic: Getty Images

 

Hurn was named the competition's best captain after finishing runner-up to Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin for last year's nod, while Blues young gun Sam Walsh was awarded the Best First Year Player Award.

He is also tipped to take out Friday's Rising Star gong after breaking the disposals record for a first-year player with 554 at an average of 25.2 per game.

Forced to step up in the absence of injured key defender Alex Rance this season after the premiership star ruptured his ACL in Round 1, Grimes averaged 6.9 intercept possessions per game.

Hawks winger Isaac Smith and North Melbourne AFLW ball-winner Kate Gillespie-Jones were recognised with the Education and Training Excellence award for their commitment to their respective off-field studies.