Coleman Medallist Harry McKay believes Carlton’s 2022 has been a successful campaign – even if it ultimately misses finals after being in the top eight since Round 1.
The Blues have been one of the stories of the AFL season, placing inside the top eight at the end of every round so far. After eight consecutive bottom-eight finishes, Michael Voss’ team now needs one more win to cement a finals berth for the first time since 2013.
But the Blues are now clinging to seventh spot on the ladder after a 33-point loss to Brisbane on Sunday – their fourth loss from their past six games.
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With two tough games against top-four sides Melbourne and Collingwood to finish their home and away season, the Blues are now in danger of missing finals, with St Kilda and, particularly, Richmond and the Western Bulldogs well placed to squeeze into the top eight.
The last team to be in finals places every round except the last was Carlton in 1977.
Asked on Fox Footy’s On The Couch if the Blues would still consider the 2022 season a success, even if they missed finals, McKay said: “Short answer yes.
“I think I judge success in terms of our environment that we’ve created. The last couple of years we’ve probably struggled in that space in terms of culture, environment, building a really solid gameplan.
“Whatever happens for the rest of the year, I guess that’s outcome-based. But for me as a player that’s been there seven or eight years, this 12 months have been a success. Whether that comes with finals or whatever it is, I think we’ve taken a really big step in the right direction.
“‘Vossy’ talked about the other day ‘hopefully it’s a long book and this is just Chapter 1’. We want to finish off the chapter really well, but it’s definitely still a success I reckon.”
While many Blues fans would struggle to comprehend missing the finals after so many victories in 2022, triple premiership Bomber Tim Watson said Carlton’s “trajectory is going in the right direction”.
“Success can be measured in a whole different lot of ways, but they are still improving and their graph is going in the right direction,” Watson told SEN Breakfast after hearing McKay’s comments.
“They built up a level of expectation, based on their performances earlier in the season, and I remember seeing them and thinking ‘yeah, they‘re capable of actually winning the flag’.
“They‘ve got some problems at the moment though – and partly to do with injury.”
McKay claimed last year’s Coleman Medal with a haul of 58 goals, but said he’d enjoyed this year more considering the team’s success to date.
“This year has been very enjoyable and a different place,” he said.
“Although we did a lot right over the last couple of years, this year it’s just started to click. Some key changes to some key personnel have been really refreshing and really nice.
“The last few weeks have been challenging after a pretty solid first 16 to 18 rounds. It’s been a little bit disappointing we haven’t been able to play our best football, but we’re still in a really good and exciting position. Two big games at the MCG to finish the year and a chance to do something we haven’t been able to do in 10 or so years.
“Even post-game (Sunday afternoon), there was initial disappointment and frustration and we touched on a few things that didn’t go right. But before we walked out the door it was ‘what an amazing opportunity we’ve got’.
McKay said the Blues needed to improve their contested ball work, which had been “a little bit off” in the past fortnight, while they wanted to move the footy with more “dare”.