“He [McKay] will be around the mark for round one so they’re actually coming along pretty nicely.
“I think with Harry, we’re definitely going to see him very early on in the year which is exciting for us.”
And while there is still no timeframe on when their fellow key forward Charlie Curnow will return to the footy field from another serious knee injury, Cripps said the young star received some “really good news” from the surgeon recently.
“The knee’s going really well,” Cripps said.
“It’s one of things [where] he’s just got to build the muscle back up in his leg now and start to recondition his leg.
“He’s in a really good spot, he’s training hard and he’ll start running in the next couple of weeks so I think he’s pretty optimistic of when he can return.”
With a decent portion of Carlton’s core of youngsters now in the 21-23 age range, Cripps said using youth as the excuse was no longer valid as the Blues attempt to make a meaningful climb up the ladder this year.
“They know they’re competing for spots,” Cripps said.
“Zac Fisher has had a really good pre-season and Will Setterfield – they’re probably two in the midfield that I think could really take the next step.
“Hopefully there’s a few surprise packets as well.”
Carlton veteran Eddie Betts said the young players were so eager to learn off him that he has spent more time than ever watching vision during a pre-season.
“They come in and they like to watch vision and every week they’re coming in and say, ‘Ed, can you come in and watch vision with me’,” he told SEN.
“They all want to get better which is fantastic to see. It’s probably the most vision I’ve done in my whole career this pre-season.”
Young star Sam Walsh in particular has caught the champion forward pocket off guard with the intensity he has brought to pre-season training.
“Just to see him come in, and for a young kid, the way that he goes about it, he doesn’t hold back,” Betts said.
“If you beat him in a contest, he doesn’t say, ‘Oh OK, sorry mate, I’ll get you next time’, he swears at you and he’s like, ‘That’s bull crap, I’m going to smack you next time!’
“Once he’s over the white line, he’s just head down and bum up and he goes hard. He really surprised me with that.”
Ronny Lerner is a Sports reporter for The Age.