Blues' injury concerns ahead of AFL opener

Finals are firmly on the agenda at Carlton this season, but several big names are in doubt for round one after interrupted pre-season campaigns.

Interim coach DAVID TEAGUE gestures during a Carlton Blues AFL media opportunity at Ikon Park in Melbourne, Australia.
Interim coach DAVID TEAGUE gestures during a Carlton Blues AFL media opportunity at Ikon Park in Melbourne, Australia. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

A hamstring complaint has left injury-plagued Mitch McGovern as one of several Carlton stars racing to be fit for the AFL season opener.

The versatile tall had impressed the Blues' fitness staff over summer before a recent hamstring strain restricted him to jogging laps at training on Monday.

He has been ruled out of Thursday's practice match against Essendon, as have Eddie Betts (calf) and Levi Casboult (knee).

All three remain possibilities for the second practice match against St Kilda next week before Carlton take on traditional rivals Richmond in round one.

Caleb Marchbank (calf) will miss the season opener on March 18, while another right-knee setback threatens to rule out fellow defender Nic Newman.

Newman is out of action after experiencing swelling in the same knee in which he ruptured a patella tendon last year.

The news is better for young ruckman Tom De Koning, who suffered low-grade bone stress in his spine this month but is now pain-free and could be allowed to resume running this week.

The list of injury concerns - which come on top of star forward Charlie Curnow's serious knee issue - have not dampened key defender Jacob Weitering's spirits leading into round one.

The Blues' best-and-fairest winner has been buoyed by the arrival of boom recruits Adam Saad and Zac Williams, and has his sights firmly set on a drought-breaking finals appearance in 2021.

Carlton have not played finals since 2013 - two years before Weitering arrived at Ikon Park as the No.1 draft pick.

But they have been rebuilding patiently and are not shying away from external expectations ahead of coach David Teague's second full season in charge.

"I don't think it's any surprise that we're looking towards September and that's what we want to aim towards," Weitering said.

"We're looking to continue what we built on last year and that's building a really strong, competitive brand of football.

"We've got a lot of guys that are really motivated to play some good football this year and it's going to be really exciting."

Meanwhile, small forward Ben Crocker is one of four players in contention to fill the final spot on Carlton's list as a pre-season supplementary selection.

The former Collingwood and Adelaide goal sneak had signed on to play with the Blues' VFL team this year and kicked four majors while filling in for an intra-club match last week.

Crocker is competing with former Melbourne defender Oscar McDonald, youngster Zavier Maher and Callum Moore, who was on Carlton's rookie list last year.