Blues confident McKay plays in AFL opener

Oliver Caffrey |

Carlton are confident Harry McKay will be right to start the AFL season despite the Coleman medallist struggling with a foot issue.

The Blues are dealing with a host of injury problems and McKay has joined best-and-fairest winner Sam Walsh (ankle) on the sidelines.

Walsh will miss at least the four rounds of 2022 but senior assistant Ash Hansen is optimistic McKay will face Richmond at the MCG on March 17.

The key forward has already been ruled out of Carlton’s practice match against St Kilda on Thursday but could appear against reigning premiers Melbourne in the Blues’ final pre-season hit-out next week.

McKay is coming off a career-best season, kicking 58 goals from 19 games last year.

“This time of year you certainly have an individualised approached to everyone’s program with the focus and priority being round one,” Hansen said.

“We’re not taking any risks at the moment, but we’re confident if it was a home-and-away game he could have played.

“He hasn’t missed any sessions all summer so the work he’s done will put him in really good stead to play well.”

Walsh had surgery last week and is wearing a moon boot to recover from the first major injury setback of his promising career.

The Blues will assess the 21-year-old’s fitness after the first month of the season before making a call about when Walsh can return.

It is a major blow for new coach Michael Voss, with Carlton fans anxious to return to finals football for the first time since 2013.

In better news for the Blues, Sam Docherty is making significant progress after undergoing chemotherapy last year to treat testicular cancer for the second time.

The former co-captain is on track to make an inspirational return to the field in the early part of the season, something that seemed unlikely even a few weeks ago.

“It certainly gives you a sense of gratitude for your own health and puts into perspective footy in general when a player like him has gone through so much,” Hansen said.

“He’s ahead of where we expected him to be, and maybe that contributed to a little calf he suffered, but he’s responded well from that and is still a chance for round one.

“It would be a huge spiritual boost and such a great storyline for the playing group because they really want to connect with him again on the footy field.”