Harry McKay celebrates a goal during Carlton's clash against North Melbourne in round four, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

HARRY McKay is poised to walk straight back into Carlton's forward line as the Blues scoff at the suggestion their attack functions better without him.

The key forward missed the two-point semi-final win over Melbourne, in which spearhead Charlie Curnow was well held by gun Demons defender Steven May.

If McKay completes his concussion protocol, he will return alongside Jack Martin, who has served his one-match striking suspension, for Saturday's preliminary final against Brisbane at the Gabba.

The 2021 Coleman medallist's goalkicking output has tailed off dramatically amid Curnow's brilliant return over the past two seasons.

This season, McKay has kicked 27.27 from 20 games and has struggled to convert chances, especially from set shots.

Forwards coach Ash Hansen joked he was "flabbergasted, bemused, shocked" by some of the scrutiny on McKay.


"I understand that it creates a great debate like it's, 'Who's the best? Michael Jordan or LeBron (James)?'" Hansen said.

"(That) is a hard question, but this is a really easy question, right? We're a better team with him in it.

"Sometimes it's intangible what players can do for your group, and certainly around finals there's a mystique attached with what players do. Guys walk taller when Harry's out there.

"It reduces Charlie's workload, which allows him to be more energetic and dynamic in other contests because he's not having to get to everything like was probably demanded of him on the weekend against a really good opponent.

"Those things you can't measure. You could probably try and quantify it through stats but Harry's super important to us."

Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay celebrate a goal in the match between Gold Coast and Carlton at Heritage Bank Stadium in round 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Hansen said he and McKay were already putting a plan in place to get the forward's goalkicking right over the off-season, but was adamant the 25-year-old could deliver now.

"He only has to think that he is (going to kick the ones that matter) and we only have to believe that he will," he said.

"He was out doing an extra session yesterday afternoon. He's a consummate professional.

"He's going through a period in his career where he's probably not getting the reward on the scoreboard that he'd like.

"Sometimes the humility piece is understanding where you're at but certainly we don't want him thinking there's a microscope on him because that just gives flames to the problem even more.

"(We say), 'Go play footy. You do so much for us and enjoy being in those moments', because he has converted before and he kicks really well at training. He'll have his moment and I'm confident if it comes, he'll take it."

Harry McKay kicks the ball during a Carlton training session on September 14, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Hansen faces a tough call on who makes way for McKay and Martin.

Matt Kennedy, Jesse Motlop, Matt Owies and David Cuningham are among those likely under scrutiny.

"That's what I get paid to do. It's a great problem to have," Hansen said.

"We're certainly going to lose some sleep over it – not through confusion but just by making the right selection call to give the team the best chance to compete and win a prelim."