Blues up for AFL finals fight against under-fire Demons


Michael Voss is readying Carlton for the AFL finals battle of a lifetime, ignoring negative talk around an under-fire Melbourne side on the brink of another straight-sets exit.

The Blues head into Friday night's do-or-die semi-final at the MCG in blistering form, though the higher-ranked Demons will start favourites for the first finals meeting between the sides in 23 years.

Melbourne's loss to Collingwood last week left them winless in three finals since their drought-breaking 2021 premiership, and fuelled critics' attempts to downplay their flag chances this time around.

But Voss said the peripheral chatter won't alter Carlton's focus on the Demons' personnel and system in a contest he expects to be tough and low-scoring.

"We're not lost in the narrative that's around the game," Voss said.

"We've got to be able to get our hands dirty and get our jobs done.

"We have to look at the threats that Melbourne bring and the level that we need to be able to play at.

"That doesn't change for us. In fact, it's quite dangerous if it does."

Voss has kept a constant theme around Carlton's first finals series in a decade, urging players and supporters to embrace the hype as the rejuvenated former power club chases a first premiership since 1995.

But the Blues can't afford to get too carried away.

A hardened finals specialist in his flag-laden Brisbane Lions playing days, Voss tipped the semi-final to have all the hallmarks of a typical September tussle.

"You have to be able to live in a space where contest and defence is high priority and that's been something that we've prided ourselves on in more recent times," Voss said.

"If you get opportunities, and they're only small opportunities, then we've got to maximise those when we get them.

"But this game and finals football is all largely based on contest and defence anyway, so we have to set up the fundamentals of our game if we feel like we're going to be a chance."

Neither side has kicked more than nine goals in the two previous meetings this season - split at one win apiece.

Both have been forced to rejig their line-up with Carlton recalling Matthew Kennedy and promoting Jesse Motlop from the sub role in a smaller-looking attack.

They replace key forward Harry McKay (concussion) and Jack Martin (suspended).

Melbourne have brought in Adam Tomlinson, James Jordon and Charlie Spargo, with Angus Brayshaw (concussion) and Jacob van Rooyen (suspended) unavailable and Michael Hibberd omitted.

Out-of-favour ruckman Brodie Grundy is a chance to play the sub role for the Demons amid concern over Max Gawn's fitness.

Melbourne skipper Gawn is battling a toe issue and can expect plenty of extra attention from the Blues, who went after the game's No.1 ruckman when the teams met in round 22.

"We might need more than a toe to stop him," Voss said.

"He's an incredible player, a genuine star for them.

"We've seen his importance, not just as a captain but the role he plays and the presence he brings.

"There's a few competitive souls that are in that team and he's certainly top of the pops when it comes to that."

The Blues have eased fears over Patrick Cripps, who was below his brilliant best in last week's elimination-final win over Sydney.

Voss declared his captain "100 per cent fit" to take on Melbourne.