Cripps’ big call on Blues’ top draft pick
Patrick Cripps says No.1 draft pick Sam Walsh is making a compelling case to face Richmond in Round 1 and is adamant the Blues have the midfield talent to surge up the ladder.
The Blues have endured a lengthy list of injuries this summer, but Cripps believes those headlines have disguised huge growth from Carlton's emerging midfield stars.
Ex-GWS midfielder Will Setterfield was thrown into his first competitive session on Monday after an ACL tear and looked at home.
Carlton midfield coach Cam Bruce yesterday hailed his physical transformation since arriving at the club, adamant he can make an early impact.
Top-five draft picks Paddy Dow and Sam Petrevski-Seton have enjoyed flawless pre-seasons, and Matt Kennedy is over the injuries that plagued last year's debut season at Carlton.
Cripps says dual Liston Medallist Michael Gibbons has the glint in the eye of a player desperate to seize his chance to play AFL as he trains for a vacant list spot.
For the new Blue co-captain, all of it adds up to serious midfield depth given Marc Murphy, Ed Curnow and exciting left-footer Zac Fisher will add to the onball mix.
Asked whether Geelong Falcon Walsh would play against the Tigers in Round 1, Cripps replied: "I could hardly see why he wouldn't be."
"We don't want too much pressure on him but I have told him there is no reason why he can't be at that level just because he is 18. He understands that.
"He has been really impressive the way he's come in, he just works his backside off.
"He is smart, he has got amazing endurance, he is a lot quicker than I thought he was, he is tough, he has got a light body but he has already put a fair bit of size on.
"His game awareness is good, he is a good decision-maker. He has got a lot of attributes that make him an elite player. Once he starts playing people will understand why people are talking about him like this."
Gibbons needs only to play well in weekly match simulation contest like this Friday's scratch match to secure a list spot by March 15.
"He has been really impressive,'' Cripps said.
"He has brought a lot to the group and he's a really good character. You can tell he's scrapping for an opportunity the way he trains around the club and I love seeing people when they scrap for an opportunity give 100 per cent the whole time. I know one thing, he will give you a red-hot go."
Gibbons stands at only 175cm but while it has put off some AFL recruiters both Cripps and Blues midfield coach Cam Bruce believe it is irrelevant.
"Look at Zac Fisher, it didn't stop him," said Cripps.
"He has won two Liston Medals so he knows how to find the footy. Watching him play, he's 23 so he gets the game, his body is physically ready so he gets to contests. He is a natural footy player."
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Bruce said of Gibbons summer: "I see a guy hungry to make an impact."
"He has been denied in the past so he has a sniff of a chance here. Whether he gets that opportunity we don't know, but he is doing a lot of things right to give himself the best chance of playing AFL footy, that's for sure.
"His size hasn't affected him, he is a fierce competitor and he's improving in his time at the club. I have a great appreciation for guys who haven't been given a chance initially and they work their arse off to get that chance."
Setterfield shapes as the modern big-bodied inside-outside midfielder who can help release Cripps forward after strong recent progress with his ACL rehab.
"Yesterday he did his first real competitive match simulation and he coped really well,'' Bruce said.
"His confidence has grown, his ability to deal with congestion and the knocks and pressure that comes around the contest was there.
"His transformation from when he got to the club in terms of his physical appearance has been phenomenal and we are really confident we have got a great player who can compliment our depth."
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