Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps has “aged badly” and “become a journeyman” in the space of two years, according to AFL legend Leigh Matthews.
The 26-year-old’s form has wavered since his dominant 2018 and 2019 seasons, where he won Carlton’s best and fairest, became a dual All-Australian and took out the Leigh Matthews Trophy for the league's Most Valuable Player.
Shoulder and back injuries over the last two seasons have contributed to Cripps’ dip in form after the midfielder was viewed as one of the premier players in the competition.
“I can’t believe how badly he’s aged,” Matthews told Sportsday.
“Two years ago, he won a lot of the awards, but he won the Players’ Association Award, and he was close enough to the best player in the game – that was two years ago.
“He was 24 then in 2019. He’s now turned 26.
“He’s never had much of a leap, I suppose, but he just looks like he’s lost his mobility and agility. He’s still probably got his strength, but he just doesn’t move the same as he did two years ago.
“So therefore, he’s become like a journeyman. I mean, he was the best player in the game, now I don’t think he’d be in the All-Australian squad for instance – he’s just aged so badly.
“What’s happened that I don’t know about? Well, you don’t know what you don’t know. All I know is when I see him now, he’s such a different football athlete than he was two years ago.”
Matthews was asked whether he was surprised at Carlton’s decision to re-sign Cripps on a long-term contract.
“Yeah right now, but the six-year deal was a couple of months ago,” he said.
“This has been a gradual degeneration – that’s what my eyes tell me. That’s my look on him and it’s more of as a football athlete, he’s aged badly from 24 to 26.
“He might’ve had injuries that we’re not aware of, I don’t know. All I know is that’s the basic look.
“It doesn’t mean he’s still not a good player, but he’s not the match-winning, gun player that he was a couple of years ago.”
Cripps was deployed forward against North Melbourne due to Carlton’s lengthy injury list, kicking three goals and collecting 21 disposals.