Patrick Cripps is the frontman of the navy blue midfield but Hawthorn are equally wary of what Carlton’s support acts are capable of in their round-three AFL clash.
Red-hot Cripps has been back to his very best over the opening fortnight of the season and looms the most likely game-breaker in a meeting of two unbeaten sides at the MCG on Sunday.
“Everyone talks about Patrick Cripps as the big, fancy, marketable guy,” Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell said this week.
“But you look at a guy like (Matthew) Kennedy who goes completely under the radar and he’s been just super for them.
“(Adam) Cerra comes back in this week and they’ve got (Sam) Walsh back, so it’s not as if they’re just this (one-man) team.
“They’re a multi-talented team and they’ve got A-graders on every line.”
Cripps has had 65 disposals in two rounds, leading the Blues to wins over Richmond and the Western Bulldogs in their first 2-0 start to a season in a decade.
The 27-year-old has had 34 contested possessions – 23 of them against the Bulldogs – and a league-best 19 clearances.
He has also had an impact in attack, matching twin towers Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay for scoreboard impact with five goals to date.
Cripps’ scintillating form stems from the best summer preparation that his body has afforded him in years.
“He’s just been a sensational leader through action and the work he’s doing behind the scenes that many don’t see,” Blues assistant coach Ash Hansen said.
“The selfless nature of his game has never been greater.
“As much as he had centre-bounce clearances (last week), there were some fantastic blocks in there to allow others to dominate and get field position.
“He’s got a lot of support around him at the moment and he’s buying into sharing that workload.”
While Cerra’s return from COVID-19 protocols is a boost for Carlton, they have lost tall defenders Mitch McGovern (hamstring) and Oscar McDonald (back) to injury.
Former Bulldogs backman Lewis Young will play his first game for the Blues as they try to limit Hawthorn tall forward Mitch Lewis, who booted five goals in last week’s shock win over Port Adelaide and has a season tally of eight.
Jaeger O’Meara will captain the Hawks in the absence of Ben McEvoy after the captain was ruled out of action indefinitely because of a neck injury suffered at training.
McEvoy is expected to return some time in the second half of the season.