Star Carlton spearhead Harry McKay is set to make a shock return from a knee injury in time to face Essendon on Friday night.
Blues coach Michael Voss confirmed on Thursday morning that McKay, who has been sidelined since Round 8, will make an earlier than expected comeback against the Bombers, barring any last-minute hiccups.
He’s an absolute pro so that’s given him the best chance to get out there,” Voss said.
“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 will be joined in the team by defender Caleb Marchbank, who has been named for his first AFL game since 2019 after overcoming persistent knee injuries.
However, the Blues will be without star defender Jacob Weitering, who suffered a shoulder injury in their loss to Collingwood a fortnight ago.
Fresh details have emerged of the infamous fight between Melbourne pair Steven May and Jake Melksham on Sunday night, with May alleged to have sledged a number of teammates before the altercation broke out.
AFL 360 co-host and Herald Sun chief footy writer Mark Robinson dismissed the Demons’ claim that the incident was merely a ‘scuffle’, saying it was a ‘brawl’ and that the club had ‘underplayed’ the severity of what occurred.
“It’s a brawl, it’s a fight where players and teammates have got in,” he said.
“I think Melbourne supporters have every right to think they’ve underplayed this.
“So he [Melksham] has punched someone in the mouth and his [May’s] tooth has opened up his hand – it’s not ideal.
“Basically Jake Melksham assaulted Steven May. He punched him in the face.
“If they weren’t teammates, the police would investigate and say ‘that’s assault’.
“Should the AFL integrity look at it? Maybe.
“Community service shouldn’t be a penalty – that should be part of what you do as an AFL player.
“Maybe the AFL didn’t step in strong enough on this.”
It’s now believed Melksham stepped in after May targeted teammate Joel Smith as part of his rant, supposedly criticising him for being unable to play through injury last year.
May famously played in the Demons’ grand final win with a torn hamstring.
Robinson was scathing in his criticism of May, saying the star Demon deserved not just the club-imposed suspension, but the ‘clip’ he received from Melksham.
“You’re going to hate this but he deserved a clip. Violence is not the answer… but my God,” Robinson said.
“Steven May by all reports is a really, really good bloke. But when he gets on the juice, he opens his mouth.
“Maybe stop getting on the juice and opening your mouth and getting yourself in trouble.”
Former Demon Jordan Lewis, no stranger to success as a four-time premiership player with Hawthorn, said May would struggle to earn the respect of his teammates back, having opened up a ‘divide’ within the club.
“As soon as you win a premiership, there is an automatic divide in the football club – whether you like it or not,” he said.
“Being involved in a club and being one of those players that was lucky enough to have success, it would have been a line that I would never have said to another teammate.
“That’s going to be pretty tough for ‘Mayzie’ to get over.
“If it’s stuff where a player was out drinking and he’s mucked up, you forgive that player and forget. But those personal attacks that would have happened at the dinner are hard to get over.”
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan says Tasmania will need to develop a new stadium to be granted an AFL licence.
McLachlan met with Tasmanian premier Jeremy Rockliff on Thursday, but said that the state, which has widespread public support for an AFL team of its own, will need ‘a stadium that can compete in 2022, or 2025, 2026’ to be given the green light by the league.
“Whether it’s contingent or however you want to frame it … this team needs and will have a new stadium if it wants a licence,” McLachlan said.
“And I think Tasmanians will expect that.”
The state government already has plans to develop a $750 million stadium in Hobart, but will only proceed if granted an AFL licence.
The state’s two current AFL venues, University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston and Blundstone Arena in Hobart, have a capacity of 21,000 and 20,000 respectively, with the new stadium reported to be able to house up to 30,000 fans.
The league is two months away from needing to make a decision on Tasmania’s request for an AFL team, with the 18 club presidents to vote on the matter in August.