AAP AFL

Will De Boer put clamps on Cripps?

By AAP Newswire

Diligent analysis, expert advice from Ryan Crowley, footy smarts and the support of teammates have helped GWS veteran Matt de Boer become arguably the AFL's premier tagger.

De Boer will need all that and more at Giants Stadium on Sunday, should he be asked to curb the immense influence of Carlton's Brownlow medal favourite Patrick Cripps.

Cripps was described as "almost untaggable" by Collingwood on-baller Adam Treloar in the aftermath of a typically dominant performance.

But the same phrase has been used in praise of Richmond superstar Dustin Martin, who memorably unravelled when de Boer shadowed him in round three.

Patrick Dangerfield, Tim Kelly, Zach Merrett and Jaeger O'Meara are among the other gun midfielders to have been kept uncharacteristically quiet by GWS, thanks largely to de Boer.

De Boer, who joined GWS after being delisted by Fremantle in 2016, spent pre-season training on the wing and up forward.

Head coach Leon Cameron and midfielder mentor Lenny Hayes decided to try something different in GWS's final intra-squad game, asking the utility to run with Stephen Coniglio.

"It was interesting because we didn't tell Steve it was coming either. I just went to him and started trying to do the job," de Boer told AAP.

"Once the other boys cottoned onto it, they started getting stuck into me.

"I broke even even I'd say. It depends who you ask.

"I was very keen to do it and test myself against the league's best. It's probably the only way I can get into our star-studded midfield."

Regarding a potential match-up with Cripps, de Boer highlighted the threats posed by a stack of Carlton midfielders but admitted their captain was a player who has "certainly got it all".

Renowned for his selfless streak, the consummate clubman suggested tagging is an easy word to use but not reflective of GWS's shutdown jobs this year.

"I don't run off with my direct opponent and I get massive help from all the boys, it really is a team approach," de Boer said.

The 29-year-old studies multiple upcoming opponents in forensic detail during the week. It's not uncommon for Cameron to switch him onto a different player mid-game.

Working alongside Hayes, de Boer seeks to understand each target's modus operandi.

"Two or three games worth of their clips with Lenny until I feel comfortable with the plan," he said.

Crowley, the AFL's pre-eminent tagger for much of his 196-game career, sometimes offers a few pointers regarding opponents.

The big-picture advice from Crowley to his former teammate was to focus on "attention to detail with the plan", then concentration and adaptability when the ball is bounced.