A last-minute injury has robbed Carlton defender Mitch McGovern of a shot at winning his first game against former side Adelaide in the AFL Gather Round opener.
The 28-year-old was replaced by Lachie Plowman just minutes before the bounce due to calf tightness.
The news was a bitter blow for the Blues after knee surgery knocked their inspirational ex-captain Sam Docherty out of the team.
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That injury blow raised the stakes for McGovern in the backline but he has now missed out on the chance to beat the Crows.
“He had a bit of soreness, he just wasn’t quite able to warm up from,” Carlton coach Michael Voss told Channel 7.
“I guess one man in, one man out. That’s been the hallmark – system over player.”
Josh Honey remained the Blues’ substitute as named.
Returning star back on deck for Gather Round
Carlton and midfield gun Sam Walsh have a battle on their hands as they try to keep the locals’ Gather Round success off the field.
Adelaide – as in the city – is nearly booked out, with more than 50,000 visitors over the next four days for all nine games in round five.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says the response to the inaugural Gather Round is beyond expectations.
Adelaide Oval, inner suburban Norwood Oval and Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills will host the matches, which start with an intriguing duel on Thursday night when the Crows play Carlton.
The Blues are flying with a draw and three wins, while Adelaide’s start to the season is back on track after their opening two losses.
They had a pulsating Showdown win, followed by last weekend’s home success against Fremantle.
While they will be at Adelaide Oval again to host the Blues, the Crows are coming off a five-day break and coach Matthew Nicks acknowledged during the week that recovery will be a major factor for his players.
Walsh’s strong run could be important for Carlton, even though he will be rusty.
This will be his first game of the season, with Walsh sidelined until now with a back injury.
“He’s just probably a really different dynamic to what we already have there,” coach Michael Voss said.
“We’ve got our bulls – we have plenty of those who know how to put their head in the hole.
“Walshy certainly knows how to do that, but he also knows how to run hard on the outside and link us up a little bit.”
Voss also warned that Carlton cannot bank on any Crows fatigue.
“We can’t possibly predict whether that (pace) will challenge the Crows in the first quarter or fourth quarter,” he said.
“But we have a responsibility to be able to play a contested style of footy and we want to bring that (on Thursday night).”
Voss, an assistant coach at Port Adelaide before he took the Carlton job, is looking forward to how Gather Round unfolds in SA.
“You can only see the excitement and energy that’s come to the city,” he said.
“Having been here for quite a period of time, I know this will be really important to the city itself and to the state.”
The Power play the Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night in another Gather Round highlight.
Norwood Oval hosts an AFL game for the first time late on Friday afternoon when Fremantle play Gold Coast, while the Friday-night clash is Richmond against Sydney at Adelaide Oval.
Brisbane and North Melbourne head to the hills for the Saturday afternoon match at Mt Barker, as Adelaide Oval hosts Essendon and Melbourne before the Port-Bulldogs night clash.
The highlight of the round will be Collingwood v St Kilda in the late-afternoon game on Sunday at Adelaide Oval.
Geelong and West Coast play the Sunday “curtain raiser” at Adelaide Oval, while Norwood will also host GWS and Hawthorn in the afternoon.
– with AAP
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