Harry McKay is in.
The Carlton key forward, taken at pick 10 in the 2015 draft, will play his ninth senior game, and seventh for the season, when the bottom-of-the-ladder Blues take on fellow bottom four side St Kilda on Friday night at Etihad Stadium.
Belted by 11 goals by the Brisbane Lions – another of the bottom sides – last Saturday at the Gabba, the blowtorch has again been on Carlton this week, with McKays absence from the senior side a talking point.
Coach Brendon Bolton again explained that regular issues with McKays body had prevented the key forward from getting a sustained run in the AFL, but that Andrew Phillips season-ending hamstring tendon injury had opened the door for McKay to return.
"Unfortunately, for two years – and he was already very young in his draft – he was hampered by a back injury … and then a significant turf toe injury,” Bolton said.
"His first two years are practically a wipe-out in terms of training. He was then hampered into this pre-season, which was his third.
"He then built up some consistency and got some AFL games, which we all saw and witnessed. He went out of the team and since then, there hasn't been a lot of continuity. He got quite ill with the flu and missed a lot of training in that period.
"Only in the last three weeks or so has he got good continuity back. Andrew Phillips going out, that circumstance helps, and some continuity at training helps. He'll get an opportunity based on that.
"There's the whole picture over a three-year period. It's clear and laid out."
Bolton said he was keen for McKay to succeed, comparing the 20-year-old to Lion Eric Hipwood.
"Me, more than anyone at this football club, started with Harry in that draft. That crew that started with me, I'm really keen to see do well and I really hope he does.
"No one, including me, wants Harry to not be a great AFL player, or we're deliberately holding him back. We've just had to make informed decisions based on what I've just outlined.
"He uses the ball well, so we want him to use that agility and mobility.
"But when it's his turn in the contest, we want him to launch at it and play with a free spirit."
Jacob Weitering (calf) and Matthew Wright (general soreness) are both also out this week. Kade Simpson will return from a week out with calf tightness, while defender Caleb Marchbank has been cleared to play by a cardiologist after being hospitalised having experienced an irregular heartbeat against the Lions.
Bolton said 2018 had been the toughest year of his coaching career to date, but insisted the Blues remained united despite being held to just one win this year.
“Our clubs really determined and focused. The game cant come quickly enough. We confronted what we needed to on Monday, and the whole focus has been around maintaining energy in our football club.
“Were trying to be defined by pressure. Were not there yet, but thats our aim and goal Were working really hard to chase a win, theres no doubt about that.
“The morale [at the club] is strong. Were not satisfied, were really determined and focused to get that next win.
“Im really proud of our club staying united. Im proud of our playing group sticking the course.”
Daniel is an Age sports reporter.
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