Deciding between Kelly, Cripps and Oliver

Sam Staunton Roar Rookie

By Sam Staunton, Sam Staunton is a Roar Rookie

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20 Have your say

    Ask the football community who have been the best three midfielders in the competition over the last three seasons, and many would agree on three names: Patrick Dangerfield, Dustin Martin and Nat Fyfe.

    All three are in the prime of their careers, aged 28, 27 and 26 respectively. The superstar trio has each won one of the past three Brownlow medals.

    But there are three ready-made replacements for the podium once these three move into the back ends of their careers.

    Josh Kelly, Patrick Cripps and Clayton Oliver.

    Kelly, aged 23, may not be as much of a contested ball beast, but he is perhaps already the epitome of class and skill among the AFL’s best midfielders.

    His performance against Carlton in Round 20 took the AFL world by storm, and it could well go down as the best individual performance in the 2018 season.

    Kelly, however, won’t have the Brownlow medal hanging around his neck this September after missing large parts of the year through injury.

    Patrick Cripps just might though.

    Without Cripps, the AFL’s worst team would be even more of a disaster than what it already has been this year. The 23-year-old contested bull has almost single-handedly carried Carlton’s midfield this year.

    His ability to win the ball and burst out of packs makes him nearly untouchable. Almost no one else in football matches his brute force at the contest.

    Patrick Cripps

    (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Clayton Oliver, however, is arguably right on par with Cripps. And he’s more than two years younger than both Cripps and Josh Kelly.

    Oliver’s last month of football has been a level above his already lofty standards, but his entire 2018 campaign has seen him establish himself as a Brownlow smokey as well.

    Fyfe, Danger and Dusty have been the three best for the past few years. Most of us are happy to agree on that. And most of us will agree that Kelly, Cripps and Oliver are next in line. Some say they already are the best.

    But who’s number one out of the three? That’s where it becomes such a fun debate.

    Say you had the chance to pick one of the three to join your team. Who would you take?

    You might say Kelly, but would Cripps be even more dominant in a better team, with more help around him?

    And you could definitely argue that while Oliver is a superstar, Cripps and Kelly are slightly ahead of him. But would you take Oliver based on the fact that he’s a lot younger?

    Does Oliver have it slightly easier than the others with the AFL’s best ruckman feeding it down his throat at every stoppage?

    It’s almost an impossible decision to make. But if I had the chance to pick one to join my team, I’d take the GWS Giant.

    Midfield beasts with the ball-winning ability of Cripps and Oliver are extremely hard to come by. But a player with the skilfulness and poise of Josh Kelly are once-in-a-generation type players.

    All three players boast a stunning individual performance in 2018.

    Josh Kelly’s utter demolition of the miserable Blues, where he collected 41 disposals, delivered the ball inside 50 16 times, and had ten clearances.

    Patrick Cripps couldn’t have done anything more against Collingwood in Round 14, accumulating 29 disposals, laying nine tackles, and booting three majors.

    Oliver’s 35 disposals, two goals, and seven tackles against Fremantle in Round 16 was spectacular.

    Clayton Oliver Melbourne Demons AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    Yet Kelly’s was the best, irrespective of their opponent.

    Josh Kelly can play inside, outside, can kick goals and is the Rolls Royce of the AFL. And at this point, I would take him over Cripps and Oliver.

    Could that decision change in two years? Absolutely.

    Who knows what Clayton Oliver’s potential is if he’s already this good at 21.

    Could Patrick Cripps reach even greater heights once Carlton’s young team begins to improve?

    Exciting times lie ahead for the three best young midfielders in the AFL. I have no doubt the next eight years will be filled with Josh Kelly, Patrick Cripps and Clayton Oliver Brownlow medals.

    Who would you take if you had to choose one?

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • Roar Guru

      August 10th 2018 @ 7:47am
      Col from Brissie said | August 10th 2018 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      Al three are stars but because I watch all the Carlton games and only a few GWS/Melbourne games and am completely biased it’s Cripps every day of the week. As you say how good could he be in a better side surrounded by the midfields that Oliver and Kelly are.

    • Roar Guru

      August 10th 2018 @ 7:56am
      Peter the Scribe said | August 10th 2018 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Cripps is a beauty inside but Oliver is everything inside and outside. Oliver, Cripps, Kelly.

      • August 10th 2018 @ 11:18am
        Macca said | August 10th 2018 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        Statisticall Cripps and Oliver are very similar and the discrepancy between things like kick (Cripps slightly in front ) Handballs (Oliver slightly in front) contested possession (Cripps slightly in front) and uncontested possession (Oilver slightly in front) don’t really suggest Oilver is well ahead of Cripps on the “outside”

        The one thing that would support it is metres gained where Oliver is well in front (379 to 255).

        The area Cripps does seem to have Oliver well covered is marking (4.3 to 3.7 ) and contested marks especially (0.3 to 1.4).

        The one thing I would say is that Oliver has much more support in the mid field than Cripps does, it will be interesting to see if Cripps can find yet another gear and starts to get more uncontested “outside” possession as he gets more support around him

    • Roar Rookie

      August 10th 2018 @ 8:04am
      Sam Staunton said | August 10th 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      You’re exactly right, and it was pretty much a toss of the coin for me between Kelly and Cripps. And i’d quite probably choose Cripps if he played for GWS or a team of similar calibre.

    • August 10th 2018 @ 10:46am
      AB said | August 10th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

      I think its fairly clear, Josh Kelly is the best player in the AFL. He’s a fair way ahead of Cripps and Oliver, and I think he’s already surpassed the other three you mention (Dangerfield, Fyfe and Martin). A fully fit Fyfe may be he’s only competition. That’s nothing against Cripps and Oliver, they are both superstars, I just think Kelly is in a league of his own.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 10th 2018 @ 11:16am
        Sam Staunton said | August 10th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        Agree that Kelly is the best, but don’t think Cripps and Oliver are that far behind

    • August 10th 2018 @ 10:47am
      Macdaddy said | August 10th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      Bont has them all covered…

      • Roar Rookie

        August 10th 2018 @ 11:15am
        Sam Staunton said | August 10th 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        Bont is miles behind unfortunately.

        • August 10th 2018 @ 2:14pm
          Brian said | August 10th 2018 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

          Was thinking of Bont and how we get caught up in short term thinking, labelling guys champions after 1 year. Nothing againt Bont who could come back and be better then Cripps and Oliver next year.

          I think Kelly another standard above those other 3. I’d say Ablett and Judd are the best 2 mids since the turn of the century. In terms of thoss benchmarks Fyfe and Kelly are the most likely to join those 2 by the end of their careers.

          • August 10th 2018 @ 2:23pm
            Macca said | August 10th 2018 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

            I am not sure we can put Bontempelli in the comparison because of the position he plays, the bulldogs seem to use him much more as a forward (he averages a goal a game in his career along with 0.8 behinds) but he has only once averaged above 23 possessions (24.1), where only in Cripps second year (not counting the 3 games he played in his first) has he averaged below 24 (23.6).

            I would love for Bontempelli to chase more midfield time and request a trade to the blues at years end (the chances of that happening are very remote) but I can’t help but feel he is being wasted slightly at the bulldogs.

    • August 10th 2018 @ 12:49pm
      Piet Mondrian said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

      Looking to their future, I can only see Cripps reaching the statues of Dusty, Danger and Fyfe winning a Brownlow, Oliver and Kelly are good but Cripps Brownlow is ultimately inevitable.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 10th 2018 @ 3:52pm
        Sam Staunton said | August 10th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

        I personally think Kelly could’ve won it this year had’ve he played a full season

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