Sam Walsh competes for one of his 38 disposals against Adelaide in Round 15 in 2021. (Image: carltonfc.com.au)

Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps is excited to play alongside Sam Walsh for the first time this season after the 2021 John Nicholls Medallist returns from a back injury.

Headlining three inclusions for the Blues, Cripps said that despite Walsh only being in his fifth year, he knows what he can expect from the youngster.

“I love playing with Walshy, just because you know what you’re gonna get. You always like playing with great players and he is one,” Cripps said.

“I think it’s his fifth year but what he’s achieved in the game already is pretty remarkable. I’d rather play with him than against him.”

Blake Acres and Matthew Kennedy are the other inclusions for Thursday night’s clash against Adelaide, which will open proceedings for the inaugural Gather Round. Cripps predicts it to be a highly contested affair, and said that their additions could be the point of difference.

“[They are] both two big bodies so it’s going to be a good contest. Adelaide plays a really contested brand of footy so they’re (Acres and Kennedy) going to be really important to the way we play,” he said. 

While Walsh, Acres, and Kennedy are three key ins for the Blues, they will be without former captain Sam Docherty, who had scans that revealed he tore his meniscus in last week’s 23-point win over the Kangaroos.

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Cripps said that although he would rather have the 29-year-old on the park on Thursday night, he has faith in the backline to fulfil their role.

“It’s not ideal losing him, but we’ve always been about next man up,” the skipper said.

“The way we play as a side, there’s roles that you can fill, and we’ve got guys who can play multiple roles.”

The Crows have won their last two matches on the back of two standout performances from Jordan Dawson and the reigning Brownlow Medallist had nothing but praise for the opposing captain.

“I reckon he’s probably been best on in the last two games,” Cripps said. 

“The best thing about him is he’s tough, he’s efficient, [and] he damages you.” 

As for the Blues, they are boasting their best start to the season since 1995. Carlton is one of two sides who remain undefeated, and while Thursday night has historical value, the magnitude of the event does not faze the skipper.

“We’ve played in a lot of big games already this year,” Cripps said. 

“I think the Gather Round as a whole is a great concept. Kicking it off against Adelaide is awesome. There’s always a bumper crowd over here and it’s gonna be a great challenge for us.

“You love playing in front of as many people as possible, so we’re excited by that.”      

The Navy Blues will be looking to get their first-ever win against the Crows at Adelaide Oval, being unsuccessful in their previous two attempts.

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