Sound mind and body: Patrick Cripps is priming himself for a big year in 2022. Image: carltonfc.com.au

Patrick Cripps leaned heavily on his strong support network at the end of 2021. With his mind and body at ease, he is plotting his return to his best football in 2022

Not since the start of the pandemic era of football has Patrick Cripps looked like a man comfortable and fit on the football field.

In 2018, the Western Australian, in his fifth season of football, playing a lone hand in the midfield broke the record for the most contested possessions by a single player in a regular home and away season.

In 2019 he backed it up with another fantastic season, placing third in the Brownlow Medal, and looked poised to keep his place among the competition’s elite players for a while to come.

After two lean seasons in 2020 and 2021, he gave the biggest indication that he was back to his clearance winning and competition breaking best against Melbourne in Carlton’s five-point win in their AAMI Series clash at Marvel Stadium.

Last season Cripps averaged only 23.4 disposals per game and just 5.4 clearances. In 2020, albeit shorter quarters Cripps averaged 19.6 disposals per game in 2020. A far cry from his 2019 form where averaged 28 disposals per game.

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It was only a pre-season game, but the final stat line of 31 disposals, eight tackles, nine clearances, and kicking four goals was well above his averages over 2021 and 2020. Fully fit after a full and unhindered pre-season, the 26- year – old is primed to return to his natural contested-ball winning best.

The Three-time John Nicholls Medallist has had to carry a heavy load in recent years and has heard it all in the past two seasons about his body, even being labelled a “journeyman” by the great Leigh Matthews.

Battling through the early parts of last season with a fractured back, then leading the club through the crisis of the external review and the removal of another coach. As the leader of the club, Cripps admitted he found it tough going on the field but took solace in and leaned on the strong support networks he has surrounded himself with.

Cripps who studied psychology at University has a keen interest and passion in the power of the mind and has looked to mindfulness and his support network over another tough period for the club.

“It probably comes from the love of trying to understand it all [The power of the mind], and especially as a leader, you want to try to get the best out of people around you,” Cripps told The Inner Sanctum.

“Whether that’s your teammates or back home with family.”

“The key thing when things get tough is to just be open and talk to alot of people.

“My family, my partner, my manager, you lean on them throughout those times when things get tough. You chat with them.

Through all the upheaval and change happening during the off-season at Princes Park, Cripps showed his loyalty to his club by re-signing for a further six seasons to remain as Carlton. As captain, Cripps was hell-bent on making sure the group stayed tight and together over the tricky off-season period.

“Through tough times you want to keep the group together,” He said.

“That’s one thing the boys did really well, we stuck together and made a commitment to come back in really good nick at the start of the pre-season to springboard our pre-season and we did”

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Sticking together and showing a united front for a new beginning. Sticking together and getting right behind each other.

Cripps led the charge back in October when the entire playing group shaved their heads in solidarity with their teammate and friend Sam Docherty who underwent chemotherapy and treatment for testicular cancer for a second time.

Docherty will remarkably run out alongside Cripps on Thursday night when Carlton faces Richmond in their traditional opening round clash, completing the most inspirational of comebacks.

Cripps couldn’t be more in awe of his former co-captain and great friend who continues to be an inspirational figure to the entire club.

“One thing you will never understand is what he [Docherty] went through,” Cripps said.

“I know the support we gave him helped him alot.

“Anyone that knows Doc knows he’s a resilient guy, he’s one of the most caring guys I know.

“To see him play footy… Six months ago you could only dream of that so it’s actually pretty emotional for all the guys”

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