CARLTON young gun Patrick Cripps deserves to win the NAB AFL Rising Star Award after yet another brilliant individual effort, according to his coach John Barker.
Cripps produced the best performance of his blossoming 19-game career against Collingwood on Saturday, winning a game-high 11 clearances, including six in a frantic fourth quarter, and 35 possessions.
He is ranked No.10 in the AFL for average contested possessions (13.1) and 15th for average clearances (6.1), with Barker certain he should become the Blues' first winner of the Rising Star award.
"Absolutely, but I haven't seen enough of the other Rising Star (nominees) to provide an unbiased opinion," Barker said after the Blues' 18-point loss to Collingwood on Saturday.
"He's growing and he's learning and he's so strong in the contest. He's growing up really quickly and turning into a man.
"His ability to absorb pressure and absorb physicality and still get nice clean hands out to our players to advantage … he was enormous."
Cripps has averaged as many contested possessions this season as Geelong star Joel Selwood, and his clearance numbers have been equal to Greater Western Sydney captain Callan Ward.
The 20-year-old, who was recruited with pick No.13 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, more than held his own against Collingwood stars Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan on Saturday.
"They're the elite guys of the competition, but you've got to back yourself in and body them up," Cripps told AFL.com.au.
"As a kid they were two of the best midfielders to watch, so it's amazing playing against them. Today was a good learning curve."
Cripps said the Blues had been disappointed in the 47-81 tackle differential on Saturday, and the Magpies' ability to win the crucial stoppages in the fourth quarter.
The fact the Blues were still in the game with less than 10 minutes to play, however, was a positive.
"We fought back and got back into it and we were getting our hands on the ball at stoppages," he said.
"As a midfield group I thought we did pretty well, but we probably dropped the ball at stages and they got us going the other way."