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Different journeys for first Blues co-captains

Blues key talls who are under pressure What went right and what went wrong for Carlton in The Wash-Up

PATRICK Cripps and Sam Docherty have travelled different journeys to become the first pair of co-captains in Carlton's 154-year history.

In their own words, they are different people, with different personalities, who will bring different leadership elements to the role of Blues skipper from 2019 and beyond.

They do have a few things in common, however.

Having arrived at the club within a month of each other – Docherty via a trade from Brisbane in October 2013 and Cripps via the NAB AFL Draft that November – they have willed themselves through five of the toughest seasons in the club's history.

Throughout that difficult spell, the pair have clearly elevated themselves as the standouts within a promising bunch of young talent that has been to the well and is now ready to begin the long and arduous climb up the AFL ranks.

It was therefore no surprise that when the Carlton hierarchy met to discuss who would replace outgoing skipper Marc Murphy in the role of club captain, a joint-partnership between Cripps and Docherty was the conclusion they reached.

But while they might share a unique relationship with one another, both have a clear vision for what they want to achieve on and off the field at Ikon Park. And it starts with success.

"We both came to the club in the same year," Docherty told AFL.com.au.

"It was a pretty tough time and we've had to go through that together. In many ways, we've grown up together and we've had to lean on each other, being two of the younger guys who are actually left at the club from that time.

"We've gone through a range of emotions during that time together and I think that's brought our bond really close.

"We just trust each other and what we're trying to do at this footy club is completely aligned. I think that's a strong stance to start on."

While being out injured, Docherty helped coach Brendon Bolton during the season. Picture: AFL Photos

On the field, Cripps is the bash and crash contested beast who has become one of the League's best inside ball winners over the last 12 months. Docherty, on the other hand, is the graceful half-back who sets up Carlton's forays forward methodically out of defence.

But while they're vastly different footballers, they're also quite dissimilar people.

While they're close mates off the park, neither are alike. But speak to those in the know at Ikon Park and that can only be a positive, with the Blues certain each will bring their own unique personality traits to the role of club captain throughout the next few years.

"It's hard to explain our different personalities," Cripps told AFL.com.au.

"We are different in ways, but we're also similar in a lot of other ways. One way that we are similar is that we're both really driven to get the best out of ourselves and we're driven by team success.

"I know working alongside 'Doc' that we're going to be relentless in what we expect from the guys. But, in saying that, the culture that we've already built around the club, it's a good group of lads who are really driven to work hard.

"I know – and Doc knows himself – that success is not too far around the corner."

As far as their differences go, the pair couldn't have had more contrasting years, either.

Cripps stormed Carlton's best and fairest in a campaign where he broke the AFL's all-time contested possessions record, consistently starring amid a bleak season for the Blues.

He captained the club for eight games in the absence of the injured Murphy, signed a two-year contract extension taking him through to 2021, finished fourth in the Brownlow Medal and second in both the AFLCA Player of the Year and AFLPA MVP awards.

For the supremely talented 23-year-old, it was his brief period spent as the club's skipper where he learned the most about himself both as a footballer and as a leader.

"It was a good learning curve," Cripps said.

"The first few on-ground speeches, I was a bit like a two-stroke motor. But it was just good to get that experience. I bounced a few ideas off 'Murph' throughout the year, just the game day stuff. During the week, it doesn't really change.

"What I actually found out was that it doesn't actually change you. Doc and myself are probably both in this position because of what we do around the club and that's not going to change from here on in.

"The players know that, they know we're always going to be approachable. We're one of the boys and we're one of their mates."

Cripps will have some extra help leading the Blues in 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

But while Cripps was dominating on the field, Docherty was resigned to a role off it.

Having ruptured his ACL in November 2017, the reigning All Australian defender was forced to watch the entirety of the year from the sidelines while completing his recovery.

He instead acted as an extension to the club's coaching staff, handed a match day role on the bench helping to relay messages from Brendon Bolton to his teammates.

"This year was probably one of my biggest development years in terms of being a leader," Docherty said.

"The on-ground stuff, the way I see the game and the way I play the game, that might speak as a leader. But off the ground, it's been a big growth area this year.

"I've been lucky enough to sit under Murph over the last few years and watch the way that he goes about building relationships with players and coaches. Being able to follow his lead and take a bit of that in, it's been absolutely huge.

"Doing a bit of part-time coaching has also broadened my lens around the whole football club as a general rule.

"As a player, you get stuck in the players' view. But being able to do coaching and have the insight about how they go about it, it's given me a really broad approach about what actually happens at a football club."

Cripps delivered Carlton's rebuild a significant vote of confidence when he penned a two-year extension with the club in July, taking him through to at least the end of 2021.

Although he wasn't out of contract until the end of next season, the young midfielder said at the time he wanted to get his deal out of the way as soon as possible to focus on his footy.

Now that the lure of a return home to Western Australia is out of the picture, Cripps is ready to refocus his attentions yet again – this time on becoming the best captain he can be.

"Playing in the AFL is a massive dream come true," Cripps said.

"I didn't realise how big Carlton was until I got to Melbourne from Western Australia. To captain the club, it definitely hasn't sunk in right now.

"You look at some of the past captains – Murph, 'Sticks' (Stephen Kernahan), (Lance) Whitnall – there's heaps of guys since I've been alive who have captained this club and to join them is a huge honour."

But while Cripps didn't quite grasp the significance of joining Carlton when he moved across from country Western Australia, Docherty – a lifelong Blues fan – certainly did.

"Being a Carlton supporter growing up, I knew how big the club was right from the beginning," Docherty said.

"As 'Crippa' said, the names that we get to put ourselves next to now … it's truly humbling.

"It's an absolute privilege to not only captain a club, but to captain Carlton, it adds a new layer to it."