Carlton will bank on midfield gun Marc Murphy’s shoulder holding up as he seeks to help continue their AFL season revival against North Melbourne on Friday night.
The reigning best and fairest has been named for the crucial Etihad Stadium clash, while in another major boost, key defender Lachie Henderson will return from a groin injury a week earlier than expected.
Murphy, out since copping a serious shoulder injury in a huge bump from Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield in round eight, survived a fitness test earlier this week and again on Thursday.
The Blues have won just two of six games in his absence.
Thursday’s test involved fellow midfielders Ed Curnow and Andrew Carrazzo dishing out bumps and tackles to see how Murphy’s heavily-strapped left shoulder coped.
“It is great to be back in the team,” Murphy said after coming through that examination.
“It is tough sitting in the stands watching, so I am really looking forward to tomorrow night to be out playing again.
“Hopefully I can play my part in ensuring the team continues the form shown against Collingwood last week.”
Earlier, Murphy had used only his right arm at times while marking at training.
But midfield coach Mark Riley insisted he had full range of movement with the left and that the Blues would not be playing him if there was any risk of further damage.
“We won’t be taking any risks with a player of that quality,” Riley told reporters.
Henderson’s return is just as significant, given Carlton’s dearth of available tall players.
While he will be valuable to combat the Kangaroos’ in-form tall forwards, he could also be swung forward, where the Blues lack a tall target after Shaun Hampson went down last week with a season-ending knee injury.
The Blues will still have only one genuine ruckman, with Matthew Kreuzer to again carry out that task virtually unsupported, as he did superbly after Hampson went off in last round’s watershed win over Collingwood.
While the Kangaroos have Drew Petrie to back Todd Goldstein in the ruck, North coach Brad Scott said it was not necessarily an advantage for his side that the Blues had only Kreuzer in that role.
“Kreuzer probably played his best game for the year last week, so players like that, of that calibre, tend to step up under pressure,” Scott said.
“He was magnificent last week.
“So you could look at it as a weakness, not having a back-up for him.
“Or you could say Kreuzer’s going to spend the majority of time in the ruck. If he’s doing that, he’s going to be a pretty influential player.”