Carlton champion Greg Williams has worked closely with Leigh Matthews Trophy winner Patrick Cripps since accepting an invitation to return to the Blues in a specialist training role. Williams has given AFLPlayers.com.au an insight into what makes the Carlton superstar one of the League’s best players.
Ben Guthrie: What sort of work have you been doing with Patrick at Carlton?
Greg Williams: Patrick is a monster and his stoppage work is as good as any in the League. The stuff we’ve worked on most is his role in the club’s gameplan. The game plan is a big thing for any player really. You should have one and it should be different depending on which team you’re playing against. Our work has revolved around his whole week and preparation. Even though he’s a superstar, he can be more dangerous, he can kick more goals, he can mark the footy more and he can run more often. There’s a lot of areas that he’s working on and he can improve in a lot of those areas as well.
BG: Explain to us about your philosophy of “clunking the ball” as the mindset you need when winning control of the ball at stoppages.
GW: We work on taking harder hits and practice those things because he’s gone past that really elementary level of drills. A lot of players do basic practice but it’s just not going to get them to the level that they need to get to and Patty wants to take things to that next level. There’s a big focus on the way he handles the ball and delivers it to his teammates. He’s got great vision so we’ve worked on making sure he scans all of his options. I’m big on no fumbling and if you practice it enough you’ll continually take the ball well. That’s elite training and elite practice.
BG: You watch any game Patrick is involved in and you really notice how much he’s on the move at stoppages. How critical is that in winning clearances?
GW: You’ve got to vary how you approach it and you’ve got to vary your starting positions. You might go to the same spot but there’s three or four different ways you can get there and that’s the next level stuff Patty’s been working on. Teams often try to double team him, we’ve seen plenty of that this year, so that obviously helps one of his teammates to get loose. We’ve been working on making that work for Carlton’s midfield.
BG: One of his standout physical attributes is how tall he is (195cm as a midfielder). How have you helped him capitalise on those strengths?
GW: Patty’s got that covered. It’s amazing how tall he is when you’re talking to him. I laugh to myself really. He’s a monster. He thinks he can get better and a lot of the stars are like that. If he’s able to float forward a little more that would make him even more dangerous. There’s a lot of pressure on guys like him and Nat Fyfe and Lachie Neale. You’ve got to be able to do it every week. It’s not easy being a champion.
BG: How does he handle the expectation placed upon him?
GW: He’s very tough and a very mature guy for his age. He’s captain and he should be too, because you see the way he plays and he leads his teammates. He’s played some games this year that are as good as anyone’s played. He just lifts everyone and he carries them over the line. He really is an amazing player and a great club man and a team guy. You can just see the respect that he’s got from everyone at the club.
BG: Despite the high level he’s reached this season, can he get even better?
It’s difficult to play better than he’s playing. But there’s little things he can improve on – three or four per cent here and there. There’s ways where he can be more dangerous and mark the ball more. He’s six foot five, so he’s taller than Wayne Carey. He’ll evolve as well and hopefully we (Carlton) can get a couple of serious midfielders in to help him and the younger ones that we’ve got, a couple more pre-seasons into them and they’re going to be supporting and helping him more.
BG: What is the level he can reach?
It’s pretty obvious where he is already. You’ve got guys like Fyfe, Dangerfield and Neale at the top of their games. But if you had to pick one, and it’s a bloody hard pick, I’d be picking Cripps. He’s already got the superstar status, but it’s a longevity thing as well. He wants to do it for a long time and hopefully he can get through his career without many injuries and become one of the all-time greats.