Patrick Cripps AFL ‘struggles’ laid bare in ‘hard to watch’ Carlton drama

The reigning Brownlow Medallist's shock slump in form has been central to Carlton's woes in 2023.

Patrick Cripps walks off the ground with teammate Jacob Weitering.
Patrick Cripps' slump in form has emerged as a major factor in Carlton's struggles in 2023. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

From watching Patrick Cripps win the Brownlow Medal last year to a disaster of a season in 2023, it's been a fairly bumpy ride over the past 12 months for Blues fans. Unfortunately for Cripps, his dip in form in 2023 has been a major part of that, with the 28-year-old's slump in form coming at the worst possible time.

Having entered this season with genuine finals aspirations after narrowly missing out in 2022 courtesy of a team-wide slump in form which appears to have carried over into this season, Cripps has fallen well short of expectations as the Blues have lost their last six in a row. His statistics throughout that period have been nothing short of alarming for Carlton fans.

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Cripps' ability to hit the scoreboard was a key component of Carlton's improvement in 2022, however he's been held goalless throughout their six-game losing streak. Worse still, in three of those the usually prolific midfielder has been held to 20 or less possessions.

Brisbane Lions great Jonathan Brown said the pressure on Cripps would be immense at this point, with head coach Michael Voss frequently asked in recent weeks if the skipper has been carrying an injury. Though he has made a name for himself in the past for gutting his way through various injury problems, Brown believes it's an issue of form and belief more than anything else.

Hawthorn premiership star Jordan Lewis said Carlton have become 'hard to watch' this season, not only due to Cripps' form. Their struggles in front of goal have been a running theme, and reared their head again by kicking 6.16 in last weekend's loss to the Bombers.

“They’ve been the most disappointing side of the year,” he said on AFL 360. “I felt pre-game this was probably the last chance their supporters would give… and they failed on that occasion.”

Former Brownlow winner Nathan Buckley agreed with Brown's point about Cripps' form, with the 2023 season thus far proving that even the AFL's best are subject to unexplained dips in form. “We always think with a player like that who just keeps getting it done that when he doesn’t there’s something wrong,” he said.

“But you’re human. Sometimes you’re not always there.”

Patrick Cripps form slump at centre of Carlton's woes

Brown said Cripps' dip in form was central to Carlton's brutal season thus far. It comes as AFL journalist Gerard Whately declared the Blues had been playing 'bottom four footy', a position their latest loss consigned them to on the AFL ladder.

“Part of Carlton’s struggles is the form of Patrick Cripps, the captain,” Brown said. “He had a good start to the year… but lately it’s been a real struggle for him.

“His clearance numbers the last couple of weeks – three, six, four, five and five. They are just not numbers that belie the Carlton captain.

Patrick Cripps lays a tackle against Essendon's Archie Perkins.
Patrick Cripps has failed to kick a goal in Carlton's last six games, regularly being held to less than 20 touches. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“Everyone keeps asking Vossy, is he (Cripps) injured? They are looking for an excuse.

"But Patrick Cripps could just be out of form. The pressure coming on the captain would be a lot.”

Speaking after the loss to Essendon, Voss was not blind to Cripps' recent struggles but backed the club champion to find a way to turn things around. The Blues host the Gold Coast Suns at the MCG this weekend.

“Sometimes you lose a bit of form and he’s running through that,” Voss said. “He’s got a challenge ahead of him and I’ll back that man in.”

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