Charlie Curnow at centre of Carlton furore as 'elephant in the room' called out

After a bruising loss to St Kilda, the Blues and Michael Voss are facing some serious AFL scrutiny.

Carlton forward Charlie Curnow and coach Michael Voss.
Carlton forward Charlie Curnow has come under fire, as has the rest of the Blues forward line, with coach Michael Voss admitting things need to improve quickly. Pictures: Getty Images

Carlton's forward line has come under fire after Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay failed to fire in the Blues' loss to AFL ladder leaders St Kilda on Sunday. After a promising start to the season, coach Michael Voss has admitted the club's ability to finish plays is 'incomplete'.

Curnow and McKay are the last two Coleman medallists, but were held to just four between them against the Saints - with McKay kicking just one. Having entered the 2023 season with some premiership aspirations - despite narrowly missing the finals last year - some commentators have observed deficiencies in not only their forward line but they way their midfield delivers them the ball.

CRUCIAL: Damien Hardwick calls out AFL over dangerous contact drama

'DOESN'T MAKE SENSE': AFL slammed over Thursday night footy call

Statistically, only the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and Hawthorn have scored less than Carlton this season so far. Of the 140 marks the Blues took against St Kilda on the weekend, just nine of those came in their own forward 50.

Former AFL star Leigh Montagna said alarm bells were ringing for him, suggesting the honeymoon period after Voss' arrival for last season had ended. He said serious question needed to be asked about their gameplan, believing their initial success this season had been somewhat fortuitous.

“They came into this year with a list that was cherry ripe – age demographic and everything you really need,” Montagna said. “The elephant in the room today was that they could have had Ross Lyon as coach and Ross Lyon outcoached Michael Voss today with what he was able to do.

“When you think about Carlton’s start to the season - they got over the line against the Giants where there was that controversial free kick against (Stephen) Coniglio, the Kangaroos really they were up against it and the Kangaroos had no key defenders and no key forwards that day. The draw against Richmond, they were lucky to probably get away with two points.

“They are really struggling. The first 10 rounds last year when Michael Voss was new, and they were up and going, they scored 100 points six times.

"In the last 18 games, they’ve kicked 100 points twice. It’s been an issue since midway through last year. I think it’s their method – I think we have to question Michael Voss’ method.”

Carlton under fire after dropping three games in a row

Voss defended his side's record, but admitted they badly needed to improve their forward 50 entries if they hopes to remain a credible aspirant for the finals. However there was some tension in his post-game press conference, snapping at a reporter for seemingly asking him the same question he'd just answered.

“Our front half game and our efficiency around our front half game needs to improve,” he said. “What we’ve got to get better at is be more efficient in the front half of our game.”

When subsequently asked about the Blues' ball movement and any issues surrounding that, an irritated Voss said he'd just answered that. “I think I just highlighted that – do you want me to say it again?” he said.

“Our efficiency needs to improve. Our total game is not all together. There is parts in our front half that showed up today we need to get better at. I actually thought if I look back … some of the decision we made were actually quite sound … But our ability to execute and go after it needs maybe a bit of work.

“I think the method actually looked quite OK – you’ve got to finish your plays. They’re incomplete. I think that’s a bit of a theme for us… so we’ve got to go to work on it.”

Carlton players react after losing to St Kilda.
Carlton are at risk of dropping out of the top eight after Sunday's loss to St Kilda. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Fellow AFL great David King was sceptical however, describing their exploits in forward 50 as a 'snoozefest' and questioning if the Blues had enough time to get back on track. Carlton missed the finals in a heartbreaker after fading badly in the second half of last season.

“Is it individuals not necessarily living up to their end of the deal or is it the system still being clunky six weeks in? Time is slipping," he said on Fox Footy. “Their clearance game is ranked 12th in the competition for actually winning the clearance but 16th in terms of score differential – last year that was an absolute strength for them.

“Forward 50 is now 16th at goals per entry even with McKay and Curnow down there – how is that the case? The mind boggles.

“Every team in the comp would crave to have Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay in their front half. They should be leading the competition in marks inside 50 – there’s no excuse for that really.”

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.