Carlton captain Patrick Cripps has hit out over a controversy surrounding him and Blues teammate Sam Docherty after labelling reports about the pair “factually incorrect” in an angry post on social media. Veteran AFL journalist Caroline Wilson reported on Nine's Footy Classified on Monday night that Cripps and Docherty stayed a different hotel to the rest of the team during last weekend's trip to play the Sydney Swans.
It was viewed as another sign of division at the under-fire club, whose tumultuous season took a further turn for the worse when longtime board director Craig Mathieson stepped down this week. It's understood Mathieson was involved in a "verbal altercation" with club president Luke Sayers in the aftermath of their round 11 loss to Sydney.
FRUSTRATING': Kane Cornes demands AFL take action over ongoing issue
That left the Blues at serious risk of dropping out of the finals race at the mid-point of the season, with the loss to the Swans their fourth in a row - leaving the club 13th on the ladder. Mathieson had served as director since 2012, with his 11-year term coming to an abrupt end a year before his 12-year term was fully completed.
Adding to the drama at the Blues were reports that Cripps and Docherty chose not to stay with the rest of their teammates in Sydney - with the Carlton skipper taking to social media in anger to set the record straight. The reigning Brownlow medallist said after staying with the rest of the Blues squad in the team hotel, he then stayed on in Sydney for an extra night with his wife Monique, before arriving back in Melbourne 24 hours after the rest of the playing group did.
"I can cop criticism about form and losing but when it's factually incorrect and questions my character and commitment to the team it p***es me off," Cripps posted on Instagram on Tuesday. "This is the accountability as players that we would love to see with certain people in the media.
"For clarity for everyone, I stayed with the team the entire time they were in Sydney and joined my wife and family members on the Sat night as we had the weekend off. We aren't where we want to be as a team right now, but never question my commitment to this team or club."
Carlton's season in free fall after latest loss
The furious swipe comes as Carlton's once-promising campaign plummets further after losing six of their past seven games. Their only win during that period coming against last-placed strugglers, West Coast.
SEN reporter Sam Edmund echoed Cripps' statement after reporting the Blues skipper and Docherty stayed with their teammates on both nights of the club’s Sydney trip, before tacking on an extra night to spend with loved ones. Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd and former Port Adelaide star Kane Cornes said it was not unusual for AFL stars to spend an extra night with their partners or families during interstate trips.
“I’ve got no issue at all (with Cripps flying back later). When you lose, things like that pop up,” Lloyd said on Footy Classified. “I was at the AFL this morning doing a show and (Giants captain) Toby Greene was there, so he obviously hasn’t flown home to Sydney after they’ve beaten Geelong over the weekend. I think we look far more into things when teams are losing.”
Cornes added: “I don’t personally have an issue with that. I think footy clubs do this all the time. If there’s a Friday night game and the players have the following day off, some players will choose to stay in that location and have a bit of a holiday.”
Carlton's underwhelming season faces another tricky juncture, with a Friday night match against a desperate Melbourne side coming off consecutive defeats. The Blues then face in-form rivals Essendon, followed by a potential banana skin home game against the Gold Coast Suns.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.