Newly crowned Brownlow medallist Patrick Cripps refused to bite back at AFL chief Gillon McLachlan’s disappointment about the Carlton star dodging suspension late in the season.
Cripps said on Monday he had “moved on” from the controversial Appeals Board decision that overturned his two-match ban for a bump on Brisbane’s Callum Ah Chee.
The 27-year-old midfielder would have been ineligible to win the Brownlow Medal if the suspension stood and would never have played in round 23, when he polled maximum votes to leapfrog 2020 winner Lachie Neale.
Asked directly about McLachlan saying the decision was “a complete nonsense” and that he was “very agitated”, Cripps quipped: “He called my name for the last three votes, so I’ll just leave it at that.”
The outgoing CEO’s comments were published in this week’s AFL Record and made before Sunday night’s Brownlow function.
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So instead of joining Corey McKernan and Chris Grant as ineligible ‘winners’, congratulatory messages flowed in from the likes of past medallists Neale, Chris Judd and Ben Cousins.
The Judd and Cousins texts remained unopened at the time Cripps completed the last of his media engagements at Southbank but he revelled in the videos from family and friends celebrating.
“I’ve always been big on my family – they’re sort of the backbone,” said Cripps, who pulled an all-nighter.
“It meant a lot to me, but (it also shows) how much it means to people around you.
“It’s always the support network that makes you play at the highest level, so it was great to share with them … they enjoyed the night as much as I did, I reckon.”
Among Cripps’ revelations in a heartfelt acceptance speech was his previous anxiety with media duties and how he would lobby his parents to let him out of boarding school to watch the Brownlow Medal each year.
“I reckon a lot of people get a bit nervous in public speaking, to be honest – it doesn’t come naturally to many people,” he said.
“But I just did a lot of work with the club psych, the media manager and (ex-teammate) Michael Jamison … it’s like anything in life, if you’re struggling with something or you want to get better, you’ve just got to put in the work.
“Hopefully, young guys and girls who come into the AFL system now can take a bit of confidence from that, knowing they can chip away at it and speak fine.”
Cripps still craves team success, which he had a taste of this year before the Blues stumbled in sight of qualifying for finals, but wasn’t interested in slamming critics who believed his best football was behind him.
Two below-par seasons, at least by his lofty standards, preceded his Brownlow campaign but he returned to his best in emphatic fashion from round 1 this year.
“It’s a bit of reward for effort. I knew I had a lot of self-belief and I probably wasn’t proving people wrong – it was probably proving myself right again,” Cripps said.
“It was getting back to the way I was playing in 2018 and 2019. I worked really hard last off-season to give myself the best chance to have a really good pre-season and carry that momentum into the season.
“It’s nice to play good footy and it was even better, especially early in the year, to play in some wins, which since I’ve been at the club, we haven’t had that real momentum and suddenly I feel like we’re really building now.”