CARLTON will return to training on Monday bolstered by a near-fully fit squad, with the club now preparing for ways in which its entire playing list can secure match practice in the aftermath of significant changes that will keep senior-listed players from state leagues.
The Blues will welcome Harry McKay (groin), Eddie Betts (calf), Nic Newman (elbow), Zac Fisher (syndesmosis) and Caleb Marchbank (knee) back for Monday's first session, having all entered the AFL's suspension period under injury clouds.
Charlie Curnow (knee) and Brodie Kemp (knee) are both longer-term prospects and remain unlikely to feature this season, while Matthew Kreuzer (foot) isn't expected to return until the second half of the year.
It leaves Carlton with an almost full-strength squad heading into Monday's first batch of non-contact sessions in groups of eight, with the Blues particularly excited about the return of 204cm key forward McKay following a summer plagued by groin issues.
"He's had a really good period of training and he's ready to go," the club's football boss Brad Lloyd said on Saturday morning.
"I don't think this period has been great for anyone, but I think if anything for big Harry it's not been a bad little buffer for him to build up his training.
"We're really excited about him. He's had a good little period and he'll build up really nicely and be ready to go."
Clubs are not anticipating to play any practice matches against rival teams in the lead-up to round two, which will commence on June 11, leaving some with potential selection headaches in the wake of blanket bans for AFL-listed players featuring in state leagues.
That ruling comes after strict medical protocols were implemented by the AFL in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the season can resume safely following the suspension of play in March.
Carlton is therefore hoping its senior-listed players outside of the club's best team can secure match fitness through a series of practice games against fellow senior-listed footballers from rival AFL clubs once the campaign does resume.
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"Ideally, once things settle down a bit, we can play some practice games against other AFL-listed players," Lloyd said.
"That would be the ideal situation from here. We're waiting to see how things go from there, but that would be the plan if all things track the way they are.
"The more time goes on, particularly training in smaller groups for the moment, they'll need some match practice and some contact. Hopefully we can do that down the track."