INVESTMENT that is second-to-none.
That’s how John Barker summed up the dedication and influence of someone he’s come to know very well, that being Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps.
As Cripps’ direct line coach for a number of seasons, Barker has seen Cripps grow up at Ikon Park from an 18-year-old draftee to the 25-year-old skipper who is intent on the widespread improvement of the Carlton Football Club.
Recovering from shoulder surgery following an injury in the final game of the home-and-away season, Barker said Cripps had recovered well and had been in constant contact with David Teague and the coaching staff about 2021.
“He’s come through that [surgery] really well. He’s in a really good space at the moment: in fact, he just keeps annoying the head coach with ways he wants to play next year and ideas he’s got for the group both on and off the field,” Barker said.
“I’m being a bit facetious, but ‘Teaguey’ and the coaching group just love the fact that he’s so invested in what comes next for us and how we get there.
“It’s awesome that we’ve got so many players invested in our future and what we can achieve and how soon we do.”
Compared to his career-best seasons of 2018 and 2019, it was a quieter season by Cripps’ standards in 2020, although he still ranked first in the competition for centre clearances.
Barker said Carlton’s evolution would come when the Blues could lessen the load on the co-captain at the centre bounce, which would free up the imposing midfielder to have more time up forward.
The assistant coach said the benefits of that were multiple.
“It’s important that we just don’t rely on ‘Crippa’, that he’s not just the big beast that has got two guys hanging off him at every contest,” Barker said.
“It’s not only for his ability to be effective, because he can go forward and catch it and kick goals, but it’s also to give other guys opportunities within the stoppage structure. It also gives opposition teams different looks both at the contest and forward of the ball.
“He’s a pretty imposing figure: there aren’t too many 6’4-6’5 midfielders that can roll forward and take big marks too.”
Barker spoke to Carlton Media as part of a pre-season preview series ahead of next week’s return to training. For the full interview, watch the video in the player below.