“ALWAYS good to be back.”
He kicked the go-ahead goal late in the final term, but Harry McKay was just happy to be in the Navy Blue once again.
Playing his first game since a knee injury sustained in the opening minutes of Round 18, McKay’s quick recovery was a welcome surprise for Michael Voss, as admitted by the AFL Senior Coach pre-match.
McKay recorded 10 disposals, five marks and that last-quarter major on return, with Voss saying the returning key forward would be better for the run after a month on the sidelines.
For McKay himself, the 25-year-old couldn’t hide his delight post-game — particularly after the Blues were swamped by supporters over the fence, next to the team bus and even at the airport.
“It was definitely one of my favourite wins,” McKay said.
The script was there for all to see. The location was the same as a fair few Carlton heartbreaks in years gone by.— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) August 19, 2023
The Gold Coast? Not this time.
The Gold Coast game? That's more like it.
“There was a big crowd outside and we got a bit of a rockstar reception when all the boys walked out! It’s a good vibe and we’ll enjoy this — but we’ve obviously got a big game next week as well.
“It was a tough game of footy, it always is up here. We didn’t necessarily play our best footy for four quarters, but it was a resilient win . . . I think that sums up the group in the last 10 weeks, the ability to find a way.”
What McKay did do on return was free up Charlie Curnow, who was clearly the most influential player on the ground with a five-goal haul.
While McKay may have been the beneficiary of a stunning Curnow assist in the final term, it was Curnow who benefited most from McKay’s return. Instead of having to deal with both Charlie Ballard and Sam Collins, McKay’s added presence enabled Curnow to isolate just one of them, kicking his sixth bag of five or more goals for the season in the process.
Then, with McKay providing a target forward of the ball at the death, Curnow was able to go back and take the game-saving - and finals-clinching - mark.
“I loved playing with him again, it’s great fun,” he said.
“I loved when he went behind the ball and took a big mark to ice the game. He’s had a fantastic year and his ability to win contests and own his moments was really strong again.”