ALL OF the pre-season talk stemming out of IKON Park was consistent about the No.10: Harry McKay was ready to go to the next level.
But ending the 2021 season as the Coleman Medallist and an All Australian seemed a stretch.
However, that’s exactly what the key forward managed to achieve, stamping himself among the best key forwards in the competition.
Effectively missing four games of football but still tying up the league’s goalkicking award, McKay delivered in spades on the promise he had shown in a flashy if not frustrating opening five seasons.
With his maiden season effectively wiped out through injury, playing just two late-season games in 2017 before injury struck once more and the first half of the 2020 campaign severely interrupted, the season just gone saw McKay make up for lost time.
He’s never been someone who’s doubted his ability to make an impact at the top level, but to deliver in a big way was a welcome occurrence for the 23-year-old.
“You never doubt yourself, but stringing some good football together last year produced a nice springboard for 2021 and I carried that momentum into the year,” McKay told Carlton Media.
“I felt like I was quite consistent throughout the year: even when I wasn’t having my best games, I was having some good moments and contributed.
“I started with a good off-season this time last year and a really good pre-season, and I felt like my confidence grew each week.
There was the standard talk about his goalkicking technique and proficiency and efficiency in front of goal: the big man knows it’s a work in progress.
However, having kicked at 64 per cent in front of the big sticks this season (six per cent higher than the AFL average), McKay is going to continue backing himself in.
“For me, it’s a comfort thing… I understand that it’s not visually amazing to a few people!
“If you take the head off and look at the statistics and the results, I think I kicked at 64 per cent which is above the AFL average, and I was at 80 something from the snap side of things.
“I missed a lot of goals as well, and that’s something I’ll continue to work on. I took some strides this year but it’s still a growth area and something I’ll put a lot of time into next year and going forward.”
Harry’s take on:
Some Round 23 Coleman Medal nerves
“It was an interesting night! Watching the Carlton game, the scores are in the bottom right corner and I could see Geelong kicking a few goals.
“Tom obviously played a really good game and had an awesome season, I thought he might’ve been on for a big night.
“I think he ended with four or five (he needed eight to equal McKay’s tally).”
A brief reunion with Charlie Curnow
“We always seem to miss each other, one of us is always injured when the other is playing.
“It was really nice to be part of Charlie’s first game back, it was a pretty cool build-up. To see him out there smiling and playing footy again was awesome.
“For Charlie, just having three or four weeks to have a taste of AFL football back and see what the standard is again. I think that will hold him in really good stead going into next year.
“I’m looking forward to a strong pre-season together and playing a lot of footy with him next year.”
Fellow All Australian, Sam Walsh
“Sam is an unbelievable player and a great person.
“When you watch his day-to-day habits and how he trains, it’s no surprise when it comes to the accolades that are coming in for him. He’s had an awesome year and I’m sure he’ll finish with the best and fairest as well.
“‘Weiters’ as well, I thought he had an amazing year and was probably a bit stiff, but that’s football.
“Those two have led the Club really well this year and I can’t wait to play with them more in the future.”