CARLTON insists veteran forward Eddie Betts remains in its best side, with the club debating whether the goalkicking great will make a swift return to action ahead of Thursday night's blockbuster clash against Collingwood.
Betts was sidelined for a chunk of the summer with a calf injury and didn't take part in either of the club's pre-season practice matches against Essendon or St Kilda, subsequently missing selection for its round one bout with Richmond.
The 34-year-old instead returned via a VFL practice match last Thursday afternoon, kicking two goals and impressing with his work at ground level to stake his claim for a spot in the team against the Magpies.
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But the Blues will also welcome back free agency recruit Zac Williams from suspension and classy forward Jack Martin from a calf injury, with coach David Teague pondering whether Betts has done enough to feature.
Jack Silvagni will be sidelined with a shoulder injury, while Mitch McGovern remains another week away due to a back issue, though Oscar McDonald is also in consideration after kicking two goals in a half after being introduced as the medical substitute last week.
It leaves Carlton with an interesting selection headache in attack, with Betts among a host of small and tall forward options vying for a spot as the Blues contemplate what direction they take against their arch rivals.
"(Betts) is in the squad, so we'll have a look. He's a chance," Teague said on Wednesday.
"I think he's in our best 22 if he's fit. He's unfortunately missed a fair chunk, so right now it's that balancing act. Some guys got in there and played their role. You've got to work out when you go to your best 22, or when you get him to the stage where he's playing his best footy to come in.
"I thought Lachie Fogarty, Marc Murphy, Zac Fisher, Michael Gibbons … those guys have been playing well down there. Matt Owies is another guy who is a small forward playing really well at the moment.
"We've got some great competition for spots at the moment. It's a good challenge for us coaches. We've debated these things for a while, so we hope it continues."
Teague joined Western Bulldogs counterpart Luke Beveridge in questioning whether rule changes in the VFL, which will trial zones for stoppages during the upcoming season, will delay the return of players like Betts in the future.
The VFL will this season make it mandatory for three players to be stationed inside the forward-50 arcs, as well as one player inside the goal square, for all stoppages during the year.
It led to several extended breaks in play during last Thursday's VFL practice match, with umpires rearranging players to ensure everyone was stationed in the correct positions for stoppages.
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"I'll be honest, I watched the game the other day and I didn't enjoy it," Teague said.
"Stopping the game all the time … it's a different game at the moment. I understand that the VFL, at times, is there to trial things. But it's very hard. Will this rule be the difference? Because you've just changed four things, you don't know which one is the one.
"I think, hopefully, some common sense will come into play and they might get rid of that for a while, because there's already been so much change, and then add it at another stage."