Blues go big as ‘evolution’ reaches final test

Carlton coach Michael Voss says the “harsh” lessons his players learnt during a horror early season form slump that even cast doubt over his position will fuel his team’s competitive drive in the club’s first final in more than a decade.

Despite forecast rainy conditions, Voss confirmed ruckman Marc Pittonet would return to partner Tom De Koning, allowing forward strike weapon Harry McKay to resume his powerful combination with Coleman medallist Charlie Curnow and focus on kicking goals against the Swans at the MCG on Friday night.

Voss also confirmed Blake Acres had recovered from his shoulder injury and was available for selection.

The Blues won just a single game between rounds 5 and 13 this season before putting together a nine-match winning streak to reach September for the first time since 2013.

Voss, who like his players felt walls closing in during that time, said the lean trot was part of his team’s “evolution” and was adamant it helped build the “high level” play that finals demand and his team has displayed in the run to the post-season action.

“That’s been spoken about a fair bit, the journey we’ve been on, and those sort of moments have been pulled apart and put back together. But it’s part of the evolution as a team,” he said on Thursday.

“How do you overcome and how do you adapt and how do you learn from the experiences that you’ve had? Some of those been some quite harsh moments where those losses have hurt a lot.

“And you’ll learn as much from those as the moments at the back end of this year where we’ve been able to turn somewhat that around and provide a consistency and a really high level in the way that we play.

“Finals puts tension on your system and we‘re looking forward to being able to be under that tension.

“I just feel like we’re well and truly adequately prepared for what the environment is going to be and as long as we can stay totally present to that moment, then we’ll be completely OK.”

Voss declared “an extra jacker” was the only adjustment he was making to suit expected wet and cold conditions, happy to take all his tall timber into the match. Pittonet returns after missing the round 24 loss to GWS that ended Carlton’s winning streak

“We’re going to play our two rucks. Pitto comes in and obviously working with Tom we feel like that that’s been a real strength of ours throughout this year and they bounce off each other really well,” Voss said.

“They’re obviously pretty good at their own individual roles, but we feel like we lean into our strengths, so that I guess means that Harry gets to spend a little bit more time forward partnering up with Charlie.

“How our system comes together and the roles within it will be important.”

Voss said he told his players not to “step away” from the excitement of a finals return, with many, including captain Patrick Cripps, playing their first final, but not to lose focus on the job still to be done.

“That’s probably the art of it is to bring the energy at the right time and don’t spend it beforehand,” he said.

“I don’t think we should also step away from that excitement It’s going to be about staying present and living in the moment, just making sure we enjoy whatever that looks like and so that’s the way we’ve approached it. We haven’t asked them to be a certain demeanour.

“We’ve just asked them to be themselves and (if) they feel like they want to bring that energy, then bring it, but as we step in with 24 hours to go, we’re just obviously really excited about what we need to be able to do and we start to lock in with what jobs need to be done, what roles we need to be able to do what do we need to execute.

“It becomes more about the task than necessarily the occasion now.”

Originally published as Carlton coach Michael Voss says 2023 journey prepared his team for finals

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