AFL: Carlton to unleash Sam Walsh after back injury saga

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Carlton coach Michael Voss says Sam Walsh is at full strength and won’t be held back when he plays his first game for the season against Adelaide on Saturday.

Voss said there was no cause to manage Walsh’s game time or ease him back in a non-midfield role after the 23-year-old sat out the first four games this year due to a back issue.

The Blues’ midfield has notably struggled to match opponents at stoppages despite their perfect 4-0 record, but Voss warned the inclusion of the reigning Gary Ayres medallist was not the solution to their problems in the centre.

“I don’t want to underestimate Sam Walsh’s influence on our team, but if we think he’s the difference, we’re certainly going down the wrong path, that’s for sure,” Voss said on Friday.

“We’ve taken a squad mentality into everything that we’ve done, and we appreciate that there’s one person who can step in and be able to have a good role in that.

“Sam coming in helps us a little bit with that, but at the same time we can’t be thinking that’s the fix for us, that’s part of a bigger picture.”

Voss was firm when asked if Walsh would be eased back into his role after being sidelined.

“No, no, he’s fit, healthy – never put someone out there who’s not ready to go, (and) he’s more than ready to go,” he said.

“It’s nice to be able to have him back in the fold – he’s been able to get through what he needed to.

“He’s been able to step through the gears as required, and thankfully he’s been able to step through those pretty well.”

Voss said recruit Elijah Hollands had pulled up well from training on Thursday and was right to take his place in the side after he was subbed out of the win over the Dockers with an adductor injury.

The half-forward had appeared dejected on the bench but scans came back clear earlier this week.

“He should be pretty good, he was (really sore) actually, he sort of walked off that game thinking that he wouldn’t get up, but the scans have come through quite clear,” Voss said.

“He was able to do part of training yesterday, and I believe he’s pulled up quite well this morning so I expect him to play.”

Voss said the Blues had tried to unpack why they were dictated to by Fremantle for most of the Gather Round clash despite emerging victors by a razor-thin margin.

But he stressed the importance to his players of finding a way to win in a competition where most teams are punished when they play below their best.

“We celebrated the good parts … we had four or five minutes, we celebrated that we were able to hang in defensively for a long period of time,” he said.

“We certainly felt like Freo had the upper hand for most of the game, so we addressed that … but you’ve also got to celebrate what we did really well.

“I think what we’re finding is the competition is a really tough competition – that’s why games against Freo when you’re not quite at your best and being able to still walk away with four points, they’re critical wins to be able to have in the wash-up of the season.”

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