Sam Walsh at Carlton training on September 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON star Sam Walsh completed a running session at Ikon Park on Sunday, as the gun midfielder stakes a late claim to feature in next week's Opening Round clash against Brisbane.

Walsh has recently dealt with a flare-up of a back injury that kept him sidelined across the 2022-23 summer, as well as for the opening four games of last season.

He subsequently won't take part in either of Carlton's two pre-season matches, against Geelong last Thursday and Melbourne this Wednesday night, with the Blues taking a "no-risk approach" to his recovery.

However, despite the club reducing his training loads going into the year, Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps said Walsh ran well during a session over the weekend and reiterated the 23-year-old would be doing everything possible to feature against the Lions.

"We had a training run yesterday and he was running pretty well," Cripps told

"It's a hard one with these back things, I think there's always that trauma that he's going to be out for another three months, but it's only a little tightness in his back.


"The best thing about this year is that he's done a mountain of work, he was absolutely humming. He got a bit stiff, but he'll reload and knowing him he'll do everything he can to get up.

"If it's [Opening Round], then great. If it's not, we just want him for most of the year. I know that's what he's focusing on as well."

Walsh, a Carlton best and fairest in 2021 and the Gary Ayres Medal winner as the competition's best finals player last season, is renowned at the Blues as being one of the most competitive players on the club's list.

The recent setback has subsequently ensured a frustrating period for Walsh, with Cripps saying he has had to put an arm around the shoulder of his young teammate.

"He's one where everyone thinks, 'He'll just be fine'. But it would be challenging, because he's wired to be the best," Cripps said.

Patrick Cripps poses for a photo with the premiership cup during Captains Day on February 26, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"That's just his makeup and that's what makes him so good. The way he trains, the way he prepares … he's got the biggest ability I've seen from being a good bloke and fun off the field to once he crosses that white line, he's on. There's no stopping him.

"That's the hard thing for him. He's wired to just keep pushing. But he'll get it right, there's no doubt he'll get it right and he'll play good footy.

"As a mate, I just make sure he's going OK mentally. That’s the hardest with injuries as players. You do so much work and you want to get the best out of yourself. Every now and then, adversity hits and you get setbacks, but it's how you bounce forward from there. He'll be fine."

Walsh's midfield minutes were partially filled by new recruit Elijah Hollands during last week's match simulation defeat to Geelong, with the former Gold Coast first-round pick showing plenty of promise in an onball role.

Hollands, who played 14 senior games for the Suns, will miss Carlton's opening two fixtures as he serves a suspension for breaching the AFL's Illicit Drugs Policy, but Cripps believes the 21-year-old will have a significant role to play this season.

"He's been huge," Cripps said.

Elijah Hollands at Carlton training on November 27, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"He's come with an open mind and he's really fit into our system. He's a great runner, he's a great ball-user. I also think he's got a really good level of self-confidence about him. But he'll fit into our system well.

"He'll definitely play a lot of minutes as that high half-forward and midfielder for us. I think he was a great pick-up."