Coleman Medal winner Harry McKay looms as a big in for Carlton this weekend after recovering from a knee injury that he sustained in Round 18 against Port Adelaide. Whilst it could just be a coincidence, Carlton has gone on to win another five consecutive games without McKay and have all but secured a position in the finals.
With the injury to McKay and subsequent team success, the question has been floated around the AFL world as to whether Carlton is a better side without him.
Speaking on SEN today, teammate Jacob Weitering believed the idea that Carlton is better without McKay is false, going as far to say the suggestion is "laughable".
"I haven't read too much about it, I've certainly heard murmurings around it. I find it laughable, to be honest, Gerard," Weitering said.
"They complement each other and they're very different players... chemistry is always a thing that takes time to build and the more they're together I'm sure the more they'll enjoy playing with each other."
The last time McKay played a full game for Carlton was Round 17 against Fremantle at Optus Stadium. McKay was the highest-ranked Carlton player on the ground, with 20 disposals, eight marks, three inside 50s, three tackles and three goals as the Blues soared to a 53-point victory and recorded their third consecutive win.
For that game, Carlton recorded a total of 60 inside 50s resulting in a score of 14.14 (98). Charlie Curnow also kicked 3.2 at 60 per cent accuracy and had four inside 50s and three marks inside 50.
Carlton steered to a victory over Port Adelaide without McKay, yet the number of injuries to the Power meant it was going to be a much easier challenge.
Against West Coast in Round 19, the first full game without McKay, Curnow was prolific, recording a 10-goal haul at 76.9 per cent goal accuracy and had 15 score involvements. As a team, Carlton recorded 64 inside 50s and 21 goals for the game.
Curnow's score involvements have remained consistent with and without McKay, recording a total of 30 across Rounds 14-17. The only factor which has majorly affected Curnow's score involvement has been Carlton's form. In major losses to Sydney, Essendon, and Melbourne, Curnow had a total of 15 score involvements, with the team's performance ultimately affecting his own, rather than McKay.
Carlton's statistics and performance without McKay are also dependent on the strength of their opposition. Against a top-four side in the Demons last weekend, Curnow kicked two goals and had five score involvements, whilst Carlton recorded 53 inside 50s for the game, finishing with 9.6 (60) in a low-scoring encounter.
Another example is in Round 21 against St Kilda. Curnow had one goal for the game and only four score involvements, struggling to find himself heavily involved in the game due to the Saints' significant focus on quelling the star forward's impact. Had Carlton had McKay in the side, they could've potentially had another target up forward, particularly when they only kicked six goals in the first three quarters.
It appears more of a coincidence that Carlton has been performing well without McKay, rather than the argument that they are better off without McKay.
He was an influential part of Carlton's return to form, kicking eight goals across Carlton's first three consecutive wins.
Expect McKay to provide a much-needed extra target up forward this weekend after a quiet couple of weeks for Curnow, who will no doubt be pleased to have his fellow Coleman medallist back alongside him.