Saturday , April 10 2021

Walsh has ‘gone straight past’ Cripps as threat

Sam Walsh has “gone straight past” Patrick Cripps as Carlton’s No.1 tagging target, says former Kangaroos great David King.

Walsh was sent into 21 centre bounces in the Blues’ season opener against Richmond, more than in his entire first two seasons, according to King.

His showing against the reigning premiers convinced King that the former No.1 pick has already become Carlton’s main attacking threat; a more rounded player than the rugged Cripps.

“Sam Walsh, for me, has become the No.1 player that needs to be tagged at Carlton. He’s gone straight past Paddy Cripps,” King said on AFL 360.

“Because of the damage that he brings to the game, the creativity, his ball-use. The threat to use run-and-carry.

“And he’s going into centre bounces now – he went in there 21 times on the weekend; last year he was there for eight in total for the season, 11 the year prior.

“And we just see what he can do – so creative. 30-plus disposals, he’s only done that five times in his previous 40-odd games.

“So he’s taken giant steps in this pre-season period and I just think now the next step is becoming super damaging forward of centre, not just getting ball back half.”

While tagging has gone out of fashion, King believes it may return due to AFL rule changes speeding up and opening up play. Teams successfully moved the ball from their defensive 50 to forward 50 one in three attempts in Round One, as opposed to one in five attempts over the past four seasons.

“I think it will [lead to more tagging], given we’re all waiting to see who’s gonna blink first in the coaching department,” King said.

“If they haven’t tagged Dustin Martin, why would they tag Sam Walsh, but that’s the discussion, isn’t it? I think a team tag – if he’s near you, you pick him up, you stay diligent.

“But now that he’s going in at centre bounces, his whole game has changed, so the scope for Sam Walsh in 2021 is now huge.”

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