Patrick Cripps celebrates a goal during Carlton's clash against Richmond in round 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

PATRICK Cripps spent last summer working with a renowned West Australian sprint coach to improve his speed and agility off the mark. He's dedicated a portion of every training session to goalkicking. And, unlike this time last year, he's not wearing a mattress strapped across his chest as a brace.

They're all reasons why, fresh from turning 29 and just a couple of games short of his 200th milestone, the Carlton skipper is fitter, faster and better than ever. Certainly, the numbers would suggest Cripps is surpassing his 2022 Brownlow best and is now spearheading a Blues side ready to play for all the marbles in September.

Cripps' game on the weekend was one of his best yet. He had 40 disposals, 17 contested possessions, 14 clearances, kicked a goal, had eight score involvements, nine inside 50s and three goal assists. It saw him claim maximum votes in the AFL Coaches Association's Player of the Year, while he also moved alongside Sydney's Isaac Heeney in the lead of's Brownlow Predictor.

It was just the fourth time he's ever had 40 disposals in a game, yet two of them have come in the past fortnight. According to Champion Data, that makes Cripps the only player to have won 40-plus touches in multiple games this season. It also makes him the first player since Brisbane captain Lachie Neale more than five years ago to hit the 40-disposal mark in consecutive matches.

The 14 clearances Cripps amassed against Richmond were the third most of his career, the nine inside 50s were the second most of his career, while the three goal assists were the joint most he's ever had in a single game. That's in addition to the 40 disposals being the fourth highest total he's ever mustered.

Champion Data also notes that Cripps now ranks No.1 in the competition for contested possessions (14.9 per game), No.1 for centre bounce clearances (3.5 per game) and top three for both first possessions (9.1 per game) and clearances (7.7 per game). It puts him as the fourth highest rated player in game behind only Marcus Bontempelli, Heeney and Nick Daicos.


Furthermore, in addition to his prolific ball-winning numbers, Cripps has improved his effectiveness forward of centre. He's now kicked 11 goals from 13 efforts this year, has nailed six of seven set-shot attempts, and kicked one from deep inside the boundary on Sunday. Champion Data stats also show that Carlton has retained the ball from 54 per cent of Cripps' 56 kicks inside 50 this year. It makes him the 12th best player in the competition at delivering the ball forward.

That has all culminated in Cripps bettering his Brownlow numbers for disposals, tackles and AFL Player Ratings points this year – Champion Data's most definitive stat to measure influence on a game – as well as matching his 2022 season for clearances and score involvements.


2022 (Brownlow)


AFL Player Ratings






Contested possessions






Score involvements






His improved evasiveness and ability to break clear from stoppage is testament to his ongoing work with West Australian sprint coach Mark Neitz, while his forward-half impact is evidence of the long periods Cripps has spent working on his craft both before and after training this season. That, in turn, can only be achieved through the oft-bruised Carlton skipper avoiding having to play through significant injuries as has been the case in previous years.

But, for all of the additional work Cripps has poured into his game throughout his storied career, it was the second quarter of Sunday's fixture against Richmond that perhaps best demonstrated the reasons behind the Carlton captain's remarkable improvement in 2024. Despite a game where Cripps touched the ball 40 times, he won only two disposals for the entire second term against the Tigers. 

Patrick Cripps in action during Carlton's clash against Richmond in round 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Instead, the Blues weren't forced to be overly reliant on Cripps, unlike in previous seasons when he has shouldered significant burdens for long stretches of any given campaign. Instead, it was Adam Cerra, Sam Walsh, Elijah Hollands, Matt Kennedy and a host of others who kept Carlton afloat.

It meant that Cripps was fresh for a third term that yielded 16 disposals, three marks, three clearances, three inside 50s, two intercepts and a goal as Carlton piled on seven majors to one for the quarter, turning a slender 12-point half-time lead into commanding 45-point advantage by the final change.

Performances like that have put Cripps right in the frame to claim his second Brownlow Medal later this year, will inevitably put him at the front of the queue to join Carlton legend John Nicholls as the only Blues players in history to have won five best and fairest awards, and might even help catapult his side among the premiership favourites come September.

Speaking after Sunday's victory over Richmond, which sent Carlton two games clear inside the AFL's top two, Blues coach Michael Voss suggested Cripps was now playing with more freedom given the club's ability to bolster the quality around him.

"It's been pretty impressive," Voss said of his captain's last month.

"I think he's playing with an element of freedom. He gets to concentrate on his job, knowing he's got men around him who are going to get their jobs done. I don't feel like he's overreaching. He's sticking at his job and he trusts the people around him.

"He's got some bigger goals in mind, but you can just see the energy he brings during the week. His leadership has been outstanding this year. What he does behind the scenes and the standards he's trying to drive, he's just as determined as anyone to get the best out of this group. He wants success for this football club and you can sort of see it in the way that he's playing."