Sam Walsh handballs during Carlton's clash against West Coast in round 19, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON has ruled out its midfield star Sam Walsh for at least the next three weeks as he continues his recovery from an ongoing back injury.

Walsh has been sidelined from training with the main group for much of the last month after tweaking a recurring back problem in February, with the Blues now ruling out the star onballer for their opening two fixtures against Brisbane and Richmond.

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Carlton has a bye in round two, due to playing in Opening Round, with the club saying a timeframe for Walsh's return remains "indefinite" but claiming it will reassess his availability during that 15-day break.

Walsh missed the first four games of last season, and the final match of Carlton's 2022 campaign, due to a previous back injury.

The Blues will also be without small forward Jesse Motlop for Friday night's clash with the Lions, after he failed to recover in time from a jarred toe injury he sustained in a practice match against the Demons last Wednesday night.

It should put recruit Orazio Fantasia in line for a club debut, though Carlton is hopeful fellow small forwards Corey Durdin (hamstring) and Matt Owies (calf) will also be fit despite not featuring in either of the side's pre-season matches.


Jack Martin will also be sidelined until at least round three due to a knee injury, while defender Caleb Marchbank is still making a slow recovery from a viral illness he endured last month and won't be considered until after the club's round two bye.

Marchbank's unavailability will further deplete a Blues backline that will also be without Jacob Weitering for at least the first two matches, with the club's 2023 best and fairest currently dealing with a nasty calf injury.

In good news for Carlton, dashing half-back Zac Williams is set to play his first AFL game since the end of 2022 after rupturing his ACL and missing the 2023 season.