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AFL: Patrick Cripps buoyed by key forwards’ form, Sam Walsh takes it steady

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Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps says there is a silver lining for the Blues amid a spate of injuries, with a powerful duo building chemistry on the track.

Key forwards Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow have completed full pre-seasons and are forming a stronger partnership as they finally get an uninterrupted run of playing together, Cripps said.

At the start of last season, the two Coleman medallists had managed only 25 of a possible 130 games together but worked in tandem for 19 games last year as the Blues fell achingly short of a breakthrough finals berth.

“Having guys like Harry and Charlie having a full pre-season, you see them working together – they haven’t played a lot of footy together,” Cripps said.

“You can go all over the ground (to find pre-season standouts), but I think our forward line is starting to mix well and have a lot of continuity together.

“We’ve just got to get it in there as midfielders and let them kick the goals.”

Cripps praised small forwards Jesse Motlop and Corey Durdin, who had put together a “really good block of training”.

He said the intensity of Carlton’s pre-season had been lifted to a new level from last year, attributing it to the Blues’ experienced playing group.

“As this group keeps maturing and keeps developing together, that bar is going to keep being raised,” he said.

Cripps said he was not fussed by the injury “narrative” coming out of the club following a season-ending ACL injury to Zac Williams and a serious foot fracture for Sam Philp last week.

It comes as Jordan Boyd and Matt Cottrell also try to recover from foot fractures, while luckless pair Caleb Marchbank and David Cuningham remain away from the main training group.

Star midfielder Sam Walsh is progressing in his return from back surgery but still had no comeback date, he said on Thursday.

“I haven’t looked too far ahead. Every session there’s incremental gains that are involved. We haven’t put a timeline on the contact stuff just yet,” Walsh said.

“Certainly with the back there’s some strict timelines that you have to follow, but now that we’ve passed that six-week mark, we can start a lot of things.

Walsh said he had learned the hard way last season that he needed to manage his body carefully to perform strongly in the run home.

“Like anyone, you want to have a body of work that sets you up for playing a good block of solid football that leads you to good back-end (of season) footy because that’s when it really counts,” he said.

“We’re actually pretty healthy, we’re athletes in a collision sport – there’s going to be injuries and that’s just the nature of what we do,” Cripps said.

“The majority of our list has completed a big block of pre-season, so we feel like we’re in a really good position to attack the year.”

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