CARLTON is counting the cost of a lamentable AAMI Community Series defeat to St Kilda, with the club destined for a nervous weekend following three significant injury concerns and a Match Review decision hovering over gun recruit Zac Williams.
The club's No.1 key forward Harry McKay (ankle), its best and fairest Jacob Weitering (hip) and its dependable wingman Jack Newnes (ankle) all failed to finish the match, each hobbling to the bench throughout the side's 19.11 (125) to 15.9 (99) loss at Marvel Stadium.
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McKay, who tweaked his ankle during last week's behind-closed-doors practice match against Essendon, landed awkwardly again in the opening term and wasn't seen throughout the remainder of the game.
It leaves the Blues with a stressful wait on scan results following summer injuries to fellow goalkicking targets Charlie Curnow (knee), Mitch McGovern (hamstring), Levi Casboult (knee) and Eddie Betts (calf).
Weitering, who picked up his maiden best and fairest a fortnight ago, then came from the field with a right hip injury following a collision with teammate Liam Jones. The defender had the issue worked on by trainers on the sidelines, but was quickly ruled out.
The blow featuring Weitering had only just followed an injury to Newnes, who himself had appeared to roll his ankle in another brutal third-quarter collision.
Those injuries were compounded by Williams' late bump on St Kilda youngster Hunter Clark in the game's opening seconds, with the club's star free agent signing leaving his feet and collecting his opponent late and to the head in an incident that left him dazed behind play.
Playing with that cloud hanging over him, Williams (17 disposals, two goals) was actually among the side's best. However, his indiscretion and a series of injuries added to a sorry night for the Blues, who fell just short of a dramatic late comeback.
St Kilda left with an injury concern of its own, with veteran recruit James Frawley pulling up lame with a hamstring problem in the opening term. But it couldn't sour the entertaining and exciting football put forward by Brett Ratten's men.
Jack Lonie (19 disposals, four goals), Max King (eight disposals, three goals) and Tim Membrey (16 disposals, three goals) were electric in a high-octane forward line, while new recruit Jack Higgins (24 disposals, one goal) continued to impress at his boyhood club.
But perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the victory for St Kilda was Jade Gresham's flawless return from almost eight months on the sidelines with a back injury. The diminutive star played the majority of the match and finished with 18 disposals and a goal.
In the absence of several key players, Jack Silvagni (17 disposals, three goals) was the standout in a depleted Carlton forward line. Zac Fisher (23 disposals, two goals) was also terrific in his new attacking role.
The Saints might have lost James Frawley to an early hamstring injury, but fellow new recruit Jack Higgins continued to impress with 24 disposals and a goal. Paul Hunter started hot and had 23 hitouts and kicked a nice goal, working well in tandem with another ruck recruit in Shaun McKernan. Star free agent Brad Crouch finished with 12 disposals in just over a half, while Mason Wood and Tom Highmore also played limited minutes. Zac Williams (17 disposals, two goals) was among Carlton's best, but will be waiting on a Match Review decision this weekend. In the absence of the injured Harry McKay, train-on player Oscar McDonald went forward and looked a threat to finish with two goals and press his claim for a spot on the club's list. Adam Saad was busy off half-back and kicked a lovely goal on the run to demonstrate his speed and polish. Lachie Fogarty showed a couple of nice things in attack, while triallist Callum Moore was quiet in limited minutes.
Round one chance
Carlton has one list spot available ahead of March 9's pre-season Supplemental Selection Period deadline and could be looking for Oscar McDonald to fill it. With a number of key forward options injured, McDonald played as the side's deepest target on Thursday night and impressed to finish with two goals from 13 disposals. He then went into the backline following Jacob Weitering's injury, highlighting his versatility. Jack Silvagni also kicked three majors to press his claim as a goalkicking target after just three senior games last year. St Kilda forward Jack Lonie surveyed his options during last November's Trade Period, but looks a lock for round one following a busy night. He finished with four goals from 19 touches and was his side's most influential player in attack.
Carlton will be nervous about key forward Harry McKay's ankle injury. After tweaking it last week, McKay lasted just a quarter before again landing awkwardly and being withdrawn from the match at the first change. He adds to a growing list of attacking injuries at Ikon Park, with Mitch McGovern (hamstring), Levi Casboult (knee) and Eddie Betts (calf) all having to prove their fitness ahead of round one without a practice match under their belts. Key defender Jacob Weitering (hip) watched the final quarter-and-a-half from the bench, while Jack Newnes (ankle) is another concerning blow. It wasn't a good night for veteran St Kilda recruit James Frawley, who pulled up with a nasty hamstring injury midway through the first quarter. However, the Saints have depth in reserve, with Jake Carlisle expected to play a VFL practice match on Friday. Paddy Ryder was rested on Thursday night out of precaution following a head knock, while Dan Hannebery (calf) and Zak Jones (hamstring) still haven't officially been ruled out of round one. Dean Kent (knee) will play in a VFL practice match on Friday.
It was all about confirming that Sam Walsh (MID, $739,000) has transitioned to playing primarily as an inside midfielder. He attended the 24 centre bounces for the Blues and while his 82 Fantasy points could be seen as a modest return, he collected 25 disposals and the role is there. Consider bumping Jack Higgins (FWD, $563,000) up your Fantasy Draft rankings as he looks set to outperform his current ADP (average draft pick) of 176. Higgins was a prolific ball-winner as a junior, averaging 120 in the Under-18 Championships of his draft year.
CARLTON 5.1 9.2 12.8 15.9 (99)
ST KILDA 8.1 13.5 15.8 19.11 (125)
Carlton: Silvagni 3, Pittonet 2, McDonald 2, Williams 2, Fisher 2, Murphy 2, Saad, Cuningham
St Kilda: Lonie 4, King 3, Membrey 3, Hunter, Battle, Hill, Butler, Higgins, Gresham, Ross, Sinclair, McKernan
Carlton: Williams, Fisher, Walsh, Silvagni, Pittonet, Jones, Murphy
St Kilda: Lonie, Hill, Sinclair, Clark, Higgins, Steele, Membrey
Carlton: McKay (ankle), Newnes (ankle), Weitering (hip)
St Kilda: Frawley (hamstring)
Crowd: 10,228 at Marvel Stadium