CARLTON promising young forward Harry McKay must improve his consistency before he returns to the senior side, coach Brendon Bolton says.

McKay played his first game of 2018 in round six, where the 200cm big man showed Blues fans glimpses of brilliance on his way to four goals from 10 disposals and six marks in a gallant 10-point loss to West Coast.

That performance made McKay an instant fan-favourite and warranted the 20-year-old selection for the next five games.

But despite kicking 12 goals, taking 24 marks and imposing himself as a seemingly dangerous target inside 50m – something Carlton has been craving for almost a decade – McKay was dropped after his sixth consecutive game – a six-disposal and one-goal effort against Geelong in round 10.

"(The area McKay needs to improve) is around consistency," Bolton said on Friday morning.

"I can appreciate that he's got some talent, but his consistency in some contest work quarter to quarter needs to grow – he's fully aware and understanding of that.

"He'd be first to admit [that and] at the moment he's working his way through that as a young forward."

Bolton related McKay's form discrepancies to unfortunate runs with injury.

"A little bit of it I think, is his consistency is linked to a lack of pre-season," the Blues coach said.

"He's never had a clean run, poor old Harry.

"Hopefully consecutive games will be able to build that up enough to be able to play him again before this year's finished."

McKay was sidelined for the entire 2016 season with a stress fracture in his lower back. He then showed patches for the Northern Blues in the VFL last year before succumbing to a toe injury which ended his season.

But given Carlton's ladder position of 18th – one win from 13 games – and the club's public declaration of being in a 'rebuilding phase', many Blues supporters, including former great Robert Walls, have been left bewildered at McKay's absence from the senior side.

Fortunately for Carlton, skipper Marc Murphy will make his return on Saturday when the Blues face Port Adelaide at the MCG.

Murphy played the first three games of the season before injuring his left foot during the pre-game warm-up in round four. The Blues captain then returned in round nine but re-aggravated his planta fascia, which has sidelined him until this week.

"(Murphy is a) huge in," Bolton said.

"He's trained really strongly over the past few weeks. The thing that he brings is organisation and leadership, I don't really have to say it but, he's a quality ball-user.

"He's been out for a while, we don't expect 'Murph' to be best on ground, but he's passionate to play next to his good mate Kade Simpson (for his 300th game).

"AFL players when they're injured are like caged tigers: they just want to get out and go."