Sam Walsh and Charlie Curnow celebrate a goal during the elimination final between Carlton and Sydney at the MCG on September 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON coach Michael Voss has put the heat on his midfield group, saying returning star Sam Walsh won't offer a quick fix to the Blues' clearance issues.

Walsh, who took out the Gary Ayres Award as best player in last year's finals series, will play his first game of the season on Saturday when the red-hot Blues host Adelaide at Marvel Stadium.

Carlton is flying at 4-0 - its best start to a season since 1995, when it last won a premiership.

But a concern in the Blues' thrilling 10-point win over Fremantle on Saturday was getting beaten badly around the ball.

The Dockers dominated clearances 44-27 and appeared on track for a memorable win until a frantic final few minutes when Carlton pulled off another tight victory.

"I don't want to underestimate Walshy’s influence on our team, but if we think he's the difference, then we're certainly going down the wrong path," Voss said on Friday.


"We appreciate that there's one person that can step in and be able to have a good role, have a good say in that.

"Sam coming in helps us a little bit with that. 

"But at the same time, we can't be thinking that's the fix for us - that's one part of a bigger picture."

Patrick Cripps, Michael Voss, Sam Walsh and Jacob Weitering during Carlton's team photo day on February 7, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Walsh sat out the first four games of the season due to a lingering back issue.

The 23-year-old also missed the early part of the 2023 campaign after having surgery on his back in the off-season.

But Voss insisted Walsh wouldn't be eased back on limited minutes.

"It's nice to be able to have him back in the fold, he's been able to get through what he needed to," he said.

"He’s fit and healthy. We never put someone out there that's not ready to go. He's more than ready to go."

After just missing finals last year, Adelaide has endured a difficult start to the season, slumping to 0-4 with its 15-point Gather Round defeat to Melbourne.

"We've had some recent games against them that would suggest we can expect their best," Voss said.


"Despite the dialogue around us, and whatever dialogue has been around the Crows, what we're finding is the competition is a really tough competition. 

"It's going to require teams to be close to their best for most of the year."

Voss expects Elijah Hollands to take on the Crows after the recruit had a sore adductor against the Dockers.