CARLTON faces the prospect of playing the remainder of the season without a recognised ruckman, with a pectoral injury to youngster Tom De Koning further compounding the side's big man woes.
Jack Silvagni battled admirably in the ruck on Friday night, taking 54 contests after De Koning was substituted out of the match with a pectoral injury just after half-time. Despite the Blues losing the hitout count 70-11, the 191cm forward was one of the game's best players and finished with 25 disposals, nine tackles, six clearances and a goal.
The club now appears likely to lean on Silvagni in his unnatural ruck position for the rest of the year, having kept its slim finals hopes alive with an emphatic 31-point win over St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.
Carlton is still waiting on scan results to determine the extent of De Koning's pectoral injury, with doubts also lingering over whether first-choice ruckman Marc Pittonet will return from an ankle problem later this season.
Mid-season draftee Alex Mirkov is also not expected to return this season from a nasty knee injury sustained in the VFL, while Levi Casboult – who has deputised in the ruck at stages throughout his career – remains around a fortnight away from recovering from his own knee issue.
The extent of Carlton's injury problems in the ruck department were evident in the VFL on Saturday. As reported by AFL.com.au last week, ex-Blue and current Essendon-listed ruckman Andrew Phillips was granted approval to play a one-off match for the club's reserves side, having not travelled to Queensland with the senior Bombers team.
Mitch McGovern, returning from a three-month hamstring injury, played as the side's second ruckman at VFL level while 188cm midfielder Matt Kennedy did likewise for the AFL side after De Koning went down.
Speaking after his team's win on Friday night, Blues coach David Teague praised Silvagni's impact in the ruck and credited his midfield group for almost breaking even in clearances despite the lack of a recognised ruckman.
"I haven't heard much about Tom's injury, so I can't share much there. He got hit just below the pec, that's what I was told. I haven't heard any further outcomes there," Teague said.
"In terms of Jack, I thought he was outstanding. I thought his midfielders around him really supported him. From a hitout point of view, we were under the pump. But I thought our mids' ability to break even at ground level and give us some supply … I thought they did a really good job.
"Maybe not having the ruckman there, it switched them on a little bit. Their attention to detail was at a level that we need to be at every week. We need to be consistent and replicate that, because I thought it was a real collective effort through the midfield."
Carlton, which remains just a game behind Fremantle in eighth spot on the AFL ladder, is due to play Gold Coast, Port Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney throughout its final three home and away matches.