MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 29: Paddy Dow of the Blues kicks during the round 11 AFL match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Carlton Blues at Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 29, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Sunday's trip to Brisbane is mounting as a critical step in Carlton's journey to a September return.

It's hardly the platform for risk-taking, but with Carlton's ascending list of ailments and a need to bounce back from last week's capitulation, senior coach Michael Voss should be looking toward a player that has just the two games to his name this year, Paddy Dow.

In the absence of injured incumbents George Hewett and Matt Kennedy, the stage is now set for the 22-year-old to gain a reprieve and subsequently prove his worth to Voss.

Dow has registered minutes at AFL level on just the sole occasion this season despite having two games to his name, having sat through his side's Round 5 win over Port Adelaide as an unused medical sub.

The Swan Hill product returned to the periphery of Voss' side for a further five weeks before earning his maiden on-field spell in Round 11, where he collected 21 disposals, 5 tackles, 5 clearances, 10 contested possessions and 5 score involvements in demonstrating an ability to transition his VFL form into the top tier.

But despite his best efforts to aid the rotations of Voss' midfield ensemble in place of first-string stalwarts, Dow was among a quartet of cuts for Carlton's next game, seeing the midfielder relegated to the reserves again where he has only continued to flourish.

Now without two of his top three ball winners for this weekend, Voss could look toward the unfavoured Dow in a time of need as Carlton enters the final three weeks of their home and away campaign with contending clubs breathing down their neck.

A shock Round 20 loss to Adelaide has placed the Blues in a perilous position as they look to certify themselves as a worthy premiership participant, now likely needing two wins to secure their first finals berth since 2013.

Their most arduous test is likely to come this weekend, with a trip to the Gabba to face a Lions side thirsty to earn back some plaudits and strengthen their own premiership credentials.

With Kennedy sidelined, and Hewett remaining at least another week away, Voss is likely to look upon Dow as his most fitting reinforcement for their must-win matchup.

The match won't only be a crucial juncture in Carlton's campaign, but perhaps a final chance for Dow to prove his pedigree amid a potentially waning post at Princes Park.

Reports of external advances from other clubs could leave the Ballarat product to consider his future beyond this season, despite being contracted for 2023.

The Cats and Tigers have been linked to the emerging ball-winner, who developed his craft down the highway with the Geelong Falcons, while younger brother Thomson currently plies his trade at Punt Road.

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Clubs may look toward burgeoning onballers as bargain trade options this off-season, looking to match the mould of Sun-turned-Dockers star Will Brodie.

But Sunday's match would be no dress rehearsal for Dow, who needs to stake his claim as a key piece in Carlton's preparations for a likely post-season placing.

The opportunity is there for Dow to not only show his value in the navy blue, but to do so on a stage that could steer his side toward a strong finish and into the finals.