AFL Rd 5 - Melbourne v Richmond
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 05: Christian Petracca of the Demons in action during the round 5 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Richmond Tigers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 05, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Hawthorn champion Shane Crawford has labelled Christian Petracca the game’s best player after his dominant display in the Demons’ win over the Hawks on Sunday.

The former Pick 2 has long teased Melbourne fans with flashes of star ability, but has added much needed consistency to his game in 2020.

Playing as a full-time midfielder now, Petracca has quickly become Melbourne’s premier on baller. Sunday was Petracca’s best game to date, with the 24-year old collecting 29 disposals and kicking a goal.

Petracca’s performances have drawn comparisons to that of Richmond star Dustin Martin, with Shane Crawford believing that the rising Demons star has gone past the 2017 Brownlow medalist.

“I just think his impact on the game has been outstanding. I think he’s the new bull, he’s gone past Dustin Martin,” Crawford told Wide World of Sports’ Full Time.

“I know I might be jumping the gun, but this year so far what he’s produced is some absolute first-class footy and the way he’s going, for me at the moment, he is my first pick if I’m putting a team together.”

Petracca has always been able to hit the scoreboard and has maintained that ability despite his move into the middle of the ground.

Crawford believes Petracca’s strength lies in his ability to create space for others and burst away from stoppages.

“Once he gets the footy, he’s drawing up to four opponents towards him and taking them on before making good enough decisions to pass the ball on,” he said.

“He’s taking spectacular marks, laying great tackles, delivering the ball inside 50, kicking goals and dominating in the middle with Max Gawn every time he goes in there.

“He is in rare, rare form, very hard to stop at the moment. I’m sure all the coaches are scratching their head thinking how do we stop Christian Petracca.

“When he goes into the centre bounce, Max Gawn says, ‘Where do you want it’, and then even if he’s got two or three all over him, he manages to flick it out and he’s got so much space for his teammates to work into.

“He’s added another string to his bow, he’s going into the middle, he’s hitting the scoreboard, and at the moment, for me, he’s the number one player in the competition.”