CARLTON has received a rare dose of good news on the injury front after spearhead Harry McKay was given the green light to return for Friday night's clash with Essendon at the MCG.
McKay was initially set to miss around six weeks after undergoing knee surgery to repair the lateral meniscus he tore during the round eight win over Adelaide.
But the 24-year has made a quicker than expected recovery and will be included to face the Bombers.
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"He's been fairly uninterrupted with his preparation. He’s an absolute pro so that's given him the best chance to get out there," Carlton coach Michael Voss said on Thursday.
"He came off the operation quite well and that's always a great start, plus he was able to get into his rehab fairly quickly.
"He's maybe a week or two ahead of where he should be, but if you ask Harry, he always had an eye on this round.
"We're pleased he's back. We've done a fantastic job trying to manoeuvre our team around and there's been some flow-on effects, but we can get our team settled again in the front half and around the ball."
McKay and Charlie Curnow combined for 45 goals across the opening eight games, and the pair will be aiming to wreak havoc on hapless Essendon.
The Blues have been ravaged by injuries this season, with the likes of Marc Pittonet, Jacob Weitering, Zac Williams, Mitch McGovern, Ed Curnow, and Oscar McDonald among their walking wounded.
But their luck could be finally turning, with even Caleb Marchbank to feature against the Bombers in what will be his first AFL match since round 16, 2019.
Marchbank's 2019 campaign was prematurely ended by a fractured vertebrae in his neck, his 2020 season was wiped out by knee and calf issues, and he didn't make an AFL appearance in 2021 after rupturing his ACL.
The 16th-placed Bombers (2-9) are set to welcome back Jake Stringer (hamstring) and Matt Guelfi (hamstring), while Mason Redman returns from suspension.
Star midfielder Andrew McGrath is set to miss after suffering a groin injury at training last Saturday.
Stringer has played just four matches this season, the last being in the round seven loss to the Western Bulldogs.
"Absolutely he is (100 per cent)," Bombers coach Ben Rutten said of Stringer.
"The week off came at a good time for us to be able to get some continuity in his training. He's in good condition, well prepared and ready to go."