Harry McKay’s meteoric rise to win 2021 Coleman Medal and earn selection in the All-Australian team

In the first 8 rounds of the 2021 season Harry McKay kicked 30 goals to lead the Coleman Medal and surpass his previous season-best of 26 goals in 2019. McKay finished the 2021 home and away season with 58 goals from 19 games to win the Coleman Medal as the AFL’s leading goal kicker, ahead of fellow key forwards Tom Hawkins (54 goals) and Jack Riewoldt (51 goals) who each played all 22 games. Left-footer McKay led the league’s goal kicking despite missing three games with injury – Round 19 with a toe injury and Rounds 22 and 23 with a shoulder injury. As well as missing those three games McKay was also concussed late in the first quarter of the Round 12 game against West Coast at the SCG and took no further part in the game.

Throughout the 2021 season 204 centimetre tall McKay utilised his mixture of size, strength and athleticism effectively to take his game to another stratosphere and lead the AFL for both contested marks and marks inside 50 per game. On Thursday night 26 August 23-year-old McKay was rewarded for his brilliant season with selection in the 2021 All-Australian team, being joined in the team by Carlton team-mate and fellow first-time selection Sam Walsh who was selected on a wing.   

Harry McKay kicking a goal from 55 metres out against Melbourne at the MCG in Round 9, 2021 on 16 May

Harry and twin brother Ben were born and grew up in Victorian country town Warragul. After playing their junior football with Warragul Harry and Ben only had one season in the elite football pathway at junior level as 17 year-olds with Gippsland Power in the TAC Cup under 18 competition during 2015. Harry played five games for Vic Country at the 2015 Under 18 National Championships and was listed in his team’s best players twice. Vic Country won the national title in convincing fashion, winning all six games at the championships.

At the 2015 AFL National Draft Harry was selected by Carlton with pick 10 and Ben was selected by North Melbourne with pick 21. Harry was sidelined for three months in 2016 due to a back injury and didn’t play any AFL games in his first season. McKay played two AFL games in 2017 and 13 games in 2018 whilst also spending time in the VFL with Carlton’s affiliate side the Northern Blues.

McKay played 20 AFL games in 2019 and had a break-out season to lead Carlton’s goal kicking and rank in the AFL’s top 10 for total contested marks and marks inside 50. During 2020 McKay again led Carlton’s goal kicking and ranked in the league’s top 10 for marks inside 50.

McKay is just the third Carlton player of all-time to win the Coleman Medal, joining two-time winner Brendan Fevola (2006 and 2009), and 1961 winner Tom Carroll in this category. McKay’s tally of 58 goals in 2021 is the most by a Carlton player since Fevola kicked 89 goals in his 2009 Coleman Medal winning season.

Harry McKay’s football career at junior level and in the AFL with Carlton is comprehensively covered below.

Early life and junior football career

Harrison McKay was born on 24 December 1997 one minute after his twin brother Ben in Warragul, a town located in country Victoria approximately 100 kilometres south-east of Melbourne with a population of approximately 15,000 people.

Harry and Ben played their junior football for Warragul with left-footer Harry playing as a key forward and right-footer Ben playing as a key defender. Footballers who played for Warragul before playing in the VFL/AFL include 1981 Brownlow Medallist Barry Round, two-time Norm Smith medallist Gary Ayres, two-time All-Australian Bob Murphy and 2020 AFL Rising Star winner Caleb Serong.

The McKay twin’s introduction to the elite football pathway was pre-season training with TAC Cup Under 18 team Gippsland Power in the lead up to the 2015 season. Harry settled in at the Power easier than Ben did and in January 2015 Ben called Gippsland Power coach Leigh Brown to tell him he was withdrawing from the Gippsland Power program. Ben returned to play for Warragul whilst Harry made the Gippsland Power squad for the 2015 TAC Cup season, it was the first time in their careers that Harry and Ben had played for different football teams.

In Round 2, 2015 Harry made an instant impression during his TAC Cup debut for Gippsland Power against the Dandenong Stingrays, kicking four goals playing as a key forward to gain the attention of AFL recruiters and Vic Country selectors.

Harry was selected in Vic Country’s team for the 2015 Under 18 National Championships and played five games for his state team, averaging 5.2 kicks, 4.4 handballs, 3.4 marks, and 1.0 goals per game. Harry’s Vic Country teammates included fellow key forward Josh Schache, Darcy Parish, current Carlton teammate Jacob Weitering and current Brisbane Lions trio Jarrod Berry, Eric Hipwood and Rhys Mathieson. Vic Country won all six games at the national championships, defeating all three opponents – Vic Metro, Western Australia and South Australia twice each to convincingly win the national title. McKay was listed in Vic Country’s best players for both wins against South Australia, in the Round 4, 28 point victory he kicked two goals – ranked equal second for his team.

In the 2015 AFL Draft Trumps – Harry McKay video published on afl.com.au Harry commented “My favourite footy memory would be winning the championships this year with the Vic Country boys, unbelievable experience and it was an awesome six weeks. Yeah, I wasn’t really expecting to play to be honest, the invitation came as a bit of a surprise but once I got a chance I was really honoured and thought if I could play a couple of good games that would be nice, but playing five and winning the championships was really good.”

Playing for Warragul Ben progressed to play in the seniors and felt more confident about his football. After receiving some encouragement from AFL recruiters Ben returned to Gippsland and impressed at training during the Under 18 National Championships to work his way into the side and was back playing as a team-mate of Harry’s after the championships concluded. Harry predominantly played as a key forward for Gippsland and had some bursts in the ruck whilst Ben was a swingman, splitting his time between playing as a key forward and a key defender.

Gippsland Power finished seventh on the ladder out of 16 teams with eight wins, eight losses and one draw. During the 2015 TAC Cup season Harry averaged 7.0 kicks, 2.3 handballs, 4.2 marks, and 1.5 goals per game in his 13 games for Gippsland Power. Harry kicked 19 goals for Gippsland Power  to finish equal 21st in the league goal kicking, however he did miss games during the season due to Vic Country commitments. Current Hawthorn defender Blake Hardwick kicked 56 goals for the Eastern Ranges to be the TAC Cup’s leading goal kicker, 20 goals in front of the second ranked player. After the top six the goal kicking leader-board was a log-jam, current GWS Giants midfielder Jacob Hopper was the seventh highest goal-kicker of the 2015 TAC Cup season with 26 goals, just seven more than Harry.

On 10 September 2015, Harry and Ben were announced by the AFL as being attendees at the 2015 AFL Draft Combine, the profile for Harry said “Left footed tall forward/ruckman who has great pace and agility for a player of his size. His ability to mark as a lead up forward is also a feature of his game. Had a standout performance against South Australia at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships and was a consistent performer throughout.”1

In the 2015 NAB AFL Draft Trumps – Harry McKay video published on afl.com.au Harry commented “Playing with my twin brother Ben this year has been pretty good, we play alright together and tend to find each other a little bit in the forward line. Having Ben in the goal-square is all good fun, I think you’re kind of protective of your brother so you try to knock his opponent off the ball and start a few push and shoves but it is all good fun. It has its ups and downs being a twin in the football world, it helps you get a bit more publicity and noticed a bit more but also they’re always asking questions about my brother and everything like that so it can get a bit annoying. It is what it is, you can’t change it.”

Drafted by Carlton, 2016 to 2018 seasons with Carlton in the AFL and the Northern Blues in the VFL

Harry and Ben both attended the 2015 NAB AFL Draft on 24 November at the Adelaide Convention centre. Carlton selected Harry with pick 10 at the 2015 NAB AFL Draft, his twin brother Ben was selected by North Melbourne with pick 21. In a video interview on afl.com.au Nat Edwards asked Harry “What went through your mind when your name was read out?” Harry responded “Probably more relief and excitement as well, the whole year or many years been waiting for this moment, really honoured to get a chance at Carlton, great club, I am looking forward to doing some hard work and playing my football there.” Edwards followed by asking “I am guessing the nerves weren’t over for you then because you were probably hoping that Ben would get picked up?” Harry replied “Yeah, once the initial excitement of mine was over I was kind of turning my attention to Ben but I wasn’t too worried about him, I was hoping he would go to North Melbourne so it turned out well.”

At the time of being drafted at 17 years of age Harry was 200 centimetres tall and weighed 93 kilograms. The selections of Harry and Ben in the first 25 picks at the National Draft were based more on potential than their 2015 form. Harry and Ben weren’t included on Champion Data’s 30 player Power Rankings list for the 2015 National Draft which is based primarily on the players statistical output as juniors. If Harry and Ben were eight days younger they wouldn’t have been eligible for the 2015 National Draft. The twins also had less exposure playing in the elite pathway as juniors than most of their peers with 2015 being the only season they played at the elite level. Harry and Ben’s size, athleticism, age and raw potential resulted in club’s taking a calculated risk and selecting them ahead of players that had more proven form at under-18 level.

Despite only making his first appearance at TAC Cup level in Round 10 Ben was the second player from Gippsland Power selected at the 2015 National Draft after Harry. Gippsland Power teammates who were also selected by AFL clubs at the 2015 National Draft were Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs – pick 25) and Sam Skinner (Brisbane Lions-pick 47).   

At the 2015 National Draft Carlton had three selections in the first dozen picks and selected a trio of key-position players, with Harry being joined by key defender and Vic Country teammate Jacob Weitering who was selected with the first pick overall and number 12 pick, key forward Charlie Curnow.

During the 2016 pre-season McKay played Carlton’s NAB Challenge game against Essendon. Later in the pre-season McKay suffered a stress fracture in his back which sidelined him for three months. In Round 14 of the AFL season McKay played for the development team of Carlton’s VFL affiliate, the Northern Blues, however he missed the next two games due to illness. At the end of the home and away season McKay played six consecutive VFL games for the Northern Blues and kicked a total of seven goals.  

Early in the 2017 season McKay was close to making his AFL debut, being named an emergency in Rounds 2 and 3 but had to wait until late in the season before making his AFL debut. McKay played for the Northern Blues in the VFL, and was named an emergency for Carlton in Rounds 13, 15 and 16.

In Round 18 McKay made his AFL debut for Carlton at 19 years of age against Brisbane at the Gabba on 23 July, 2017. On debut Harry had eight kicks, three handballs, six marks including an equal game-high three contested marks, seven contested possessions and after taking a juggled contested mark against Harris Andrews deep in the forward pocket kicked a goal in the 30 point loss. The following week against Geelong McKay kicked two goals from four disposals to be Carlton’s second highest goal scorer for the game. A toe injury forced McKay to miss the final four games of the 2017 season.

McKay was named an emergency for the first four rounds of the 2018 season. Against West Coast in Round 5 McKay impressed in his first AFL game for the season, having nine kicks, one handball, six marks and kicked a game-high four goals. In six consecutive AFL games from Round 5 to Round 10 McKay kicked multiple goals four times. After having six disposals, kicking one goal and not taking a mark against Geelong in Round 10 McKay was omitted from Carlton’s Round 11 team, being named an emergency.

After missing Round 13 with illness, playing two VFL games and being named an emergency in Round 16 McKay returned to AFL level and played Carlton’s last seven games of the season from Round 17 to Round 23. Against the GWS Giants at the Marvel Stadium in Round 20 McKay kicked a team-high three goals, took an equal team-high eight marks and had 10 contested possessions – ranked equal second for Carlton in the game behind Patrick Cripps with 16.

In 13 games for Carlton during 2018 McKay kicked a total of 21 goals, 11 behinds to be Carlton’s equal second highest goal scorer with Matthew Wright, seven behind Charlie Curnow with 34 goals. McKay ranked fourth at Carlton for contested marks and third for marks inside 50.

Harry McKay kicking at goal in a 2018 pre-season game against St Kilda at Ikon Park

The profile for McKay in AFL Prospectus 2019 said “There were three parts of McKay’s game that rated above average last season, his goals, contested marks per game and his shot at goal accuracy. His output wasn’t huge but it was consistent, recording the second-best consistency rating for Champion Data ranking points of the 52 key forwards who played at least five games last season.”2

Break-out 2019 season to be Carlton’s leading goal kicker

In AFL Record Season 2019 McKay was listed as being 204 centimetres tall and weighing 99 kilograms, a four centimetre increase on his draft height, making him the tallest player on Carlton’s list, being one centimetre taller than ruck/forward Tom De Koning.

McKay commenced the 2019 season at AFL level with Carlton, he cemented his position in the side during the season and in his fourth season with the club didn’t spend any time playing in the VFL for the Northern Blues.

In Round 5 McKay in the 20th AFL game of his career was brilliant, setting new career-highs for kicks (15), marks (11), disposals (20), contested possessions (13), bounces (4) and kicked a game-high and equal career-high four goals to play a pivotal role in Carlton recording an upset 44 point victory against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium. For his outstanding performance McKay received the maximum 10 votes in the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year Award and polled one Brownlow Medal vote, the first vote of his career.

McKay played the first 13 rounds of the 2019 season for Carlton and kicked multiple goals six times during this period. After the Round 14 bye McKay missed Rounds 15 and 16 with a groin injury. In McKay’s first 28 AFL games up until Round 13 he took more than eight marks in a game once. McKay returned for Carlton in Round 17 and played the least seven games of the season, he took more than eight marks in a game four times during this period.

For the first time in his career McKay led Carlton’s goal kicking in 2019 with 26 goals, 30 behinds ahead of Mitch McGovern (22 goals) and Charlie Curnow (18 goals). McKay ranked second at Carlton for total marks and fourth for score involvements.

During the 2019 home and away season McKay took 45 contested marks, ranked third in the AFL behind fellow key forwards, Aaron Naughton (53) and Tom Lynch [Richmond] (45). McKay ranked equal eighth in the AFL for marks inside 50.

McKay was selected in the forward pocket of the 2019 AFL Players’ Association 22Under22 team and was joined in the team by two Carlton team-mates with Sam Walsh named on a wing and Jacob Weitering selected at centre half-back.

Leads Carlton’s goal kicking again in 2020

During the first four rounds of 2020 McKay kicked one goal from two games, missing Round 1 with a groin injury and Round 4 with a ribs injury. After being held goalless in Round 5 against St Kilda McKay kicked three goals in consecutive games against the Western Bulldogs in Round 6 and Port Adelaide in Round 7.

Due to a knee injury McKay didn’t play in Rounds 8 and 11, he was held goalless in Round 9 and Carlton had the bye in Round 10. McKay finished the 2020 season strongly, kicking a total of seven goals in Carlton’s last two games of the season comprised of four goals against Adelaide in Round 17 and three goals against Brisbane in Round 18.

For the second time in his career McKay polled Brownlow Medal votes in Round 17 against Adelaide at the Gabba. Receiving two votes for an efficient performance in which he had six kicks, six marks, took a game-high five contested marks – three more than the second ranked player in the game, and kicked a game-high four goals – two more than the second ranked player in the game.  

In Carlton’s final game of the season – Round 18 due to the condensed season as a result of COVID-19 McKay kicked three goals against Brisbane at the Gabba, it was the fourth time of the season that McKay kicked at least three goals in a game.

McKay kicked 21 goals, 15 behinds in 2020 to lead Carlton’s goal kicking for the second year in succession, ahead of Levi Casboult (16 goals). During 2020 McKay took 22 contested marks – ranked equal 16th in the AFL and ranked eighth in the league with 32 marks inside 50. 

Wins 2021 Coleman Medal and is selected in the All-Australian team

In Round 2, 2021 at the MCG against Collingwood McKay played his 50th AFL game at 23 years of age. During his milestone game McKay kicked four goals and took three contested marks to set equal game-highs in both categories.

In a best afield performance McKay kicked a career-high seven goals, had 14 kicks, 10 marks, three handballs, 10 marks including nine inside 50 and laid three tackles in Carlton’s 45 point victory against Fremantle at the Marvel Stadium in Round 3 to earn a game-high nine votes in the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year Award.

Against the Brisbane Lions at Marvel Stadium in Round 6 McKay kicked a game-high six goals – three more than the second ranked player for the game, had 12 kicks, took an equal game-high nine marks along with teammate Sam Walsh, had three handballs and polled eight votes in the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year Award, ranked second for the game.

In his first 53 AFL games up to Round 5, 2021 McKay’s longest sequence of kicking at least three goals in a game was two games, twice in 2020. From Round 6 to Round 9 McKay at least three goals in all four games and kicked a total of 17 goals at an average of 4.25 goals per game during this period.

McKay played a pivotal role in Carlton’s Round 7, 16 point victory against Essendon in a shoot-out at the MCG 123 to 107, having seven kicks, five handballs, six marks and kicked a team-high four goals. Carlton head coach David Teague commented post-game “I was super proud of Harry’s game. He won’t want me to say this, but he was a bit under the weather going into the game and he said ‘nah I can get the job done for you coach’. He didn’t complain, didn’t tell any of his teammates, he just went out there and kept competing. You have examples of that throughout the year and once you walk over that white line you’re fit to play and Harry knew that and he got the job done so I thought it was a great effort.”

The two photos above are of Harry McKay kicking a left-footed snap goal from a set-shot against Essendon in Round 7 2021 at the MCG on 2 May and the photo below is of McKay celebrating the goal.

After Round 8 of the 2021 season McKay had kicked 30 goals to surpass his previous season-best of 26 goals from 20 games in 2019. On McKay’s blistering start to the 2021 season Carlton co-captain Sam Docherty told RSN’s Inner Sanctum “We always knew he had talent, but he’s got a really high work ethic in terms of his position and dedication to his craft. He’s had that for his whole career. From day one when he got here until now, he’s always been doing little drills about his marking and whatnot. This was the year where I was like ‘this guy is going to be very, very good’.”

Key defender Jacob Weitering won Carlton’s 2020 best and fairest and was selected in the 2020 All-Australian squad of 40 players. McKay’s performances against Weitering during the 2021 pre-season were an indicator that he was on track to take his game to another level in 2021. Docherty told RSN’s Inner Sanctum “We’ve got some pretty good tall defenders at our club, and at stages through the pre-season he was being a handful for Jacob Weitering. If anyone is a handful for ‘Weiters’, you’re going to be a bloody good player because he gets most guys most week and plays really well. He’s having a super year, which is really good for us.”

Against West Coast at the SCG in Round 12 McKay was involved a marking contest in the forward pocket against Harry Edwards with three minutes remaining in the first term, he landed on his back and then the back of his head hit the ground heavily. McKay suffered a concussion and was substituted out of the game. Carlton had the bye in Round 13 and McKay passed the concussion protocols to be able to play in Round 14.     

In mid-June 2021 McKay signed a two-year contract with Carlton until the end of 2023 when he will become a free-agent. On signing the contract extension with Carlton McKay told afl.com.au “To be honest it wasn’t an, ‘Alright let’s do two years so in two years’ time it’ll be easier to do whatever’, it was more individually a timing thing and felt comfortable with two years and then after that who knows what can happen. But I’m super comfortable and I see myself playing for the Carlton Football Club for a long time and that’s a step in that direction.”3

On the 15 June, 2021 episode of SEN program Whateley McKay expanded on the contract length  “Individually, I feel like I have only just started playing some consistent football so I felt two years at this stage of my career was the right way to go about it. I am really looking forward to the next few years, helping Carlton climb back up the ladder and playing some really good football.”

Gerard Whateley asked “There was the lovely coincidence of you and your brother coming out of contract at the same time, did you have any conversation at any stage going ‘should we team up here?’ Harry replied “Well Gerard, everyone thinks it would be really good together playing football but if you knew Ben and I, it wouldn’t be overly nice I reckon, there would be a lot of fights at training and could be some instances. Playing with each other for 18 years as young kids was enough for now Gerard, yeah happy to be apart.”

When McKay is on an angle on the preferred side of the ground for a left-footer he prefers to have a shot at goal with a snap rather than a drop punt. On the non-preferred side of the ground for a left-footer McKay prefers to have shots at goal with the drop punt. On having snap shots at goal on the preferred side of the ground for a left-footer McKay told SEN Breakfast on 7 July “It’s simply just a comfort and confidence thing. When I snap the ball, it’s got a lot more room to come back: you put it out there and the ball always comes back. I’m just really comfortable kicking the ball from that side. I know optically that it’s not great for a few of the elder statesmen around the league, but I think it’s something to get used to. If you look at the stats where blokes kick around the corner, we hardly miss. Apart from the odd one that comes off the belly of the ball, they’re pretty accurate.”

Harry McKay kicking a left-footed snap goal from a set shot on 16 May 2021 against Melbourne at the MCG.

An article published on carltonfc.com.au supported McKay’s comments, stating that up to that point of the season “Of those 79 (shots at goal), he has utilised the snap from a set shot on 23 occasions, 17 of which have travelled through the big sticks. It means he’s running at just under 74 per cent in front of goal: nearly a 16 per cent increase on his total average.”4

Against Collingwood at the MCG in Round 18 Carlton trailed Collingwood by eight points at three-quarter time and McKay had been held goalless to that point. McKay turned things around in dramatic fashion to dominate in the last quarter, kicking four goals to be play a key role in Carlton kicking six unanswered goals to record a 29 victory. McKay’s four goals were a game-high, he also had eight kicks, two handballs, six marks and took a game-high four contested marks.  

Harry and his twin brother Ben were both named for the Round 19 game between Carlton and North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium and were set to play on opposition teams for the first time in their sixth season as AFL players. In his first four seasons from 2016 to 2019 Ben played a total of four AFL games. From Round 7, 2020 onwards Ben has been a fixture in North Melbourne’s team as a key defender, playing all 33 AFL games for the Kangaroos. However when Ben played for North Melbourne against Carlton in Round 8, 2020 Harry was a late withdrawal due to a knee injury.

Whilst Harry and Ben had been yet to do battle on-field in an AFL game it hadn’t stopped a bit of banter being traded back and forth between the siblings. In May 2021 Ben was asked about the prospect of playing on Harry when their two sides met and commented “I normally take the best forward so probably Levi (Casboult)”. Harry replied by saying that if he was opposed to Ben he could “sew up the Coleman.”

On the potential of a match-up between Ben and Harry North Melbourne head coach David Noble commented “It’s one of the scenarios, isn’t it? We’ve got a couple of good defenders down there, but there will definitely be a time where they’re on each other. There’s no escaping that. Whether or not we’ll set the brothers for each other, it’s yet to be determined. The way our defence moves sometimes, it does have flexibility and you need to cover different roles. But there will be a point in time where they’re playing on each other.”

The much-anticipated clash between Harry and Ben had to wait at least one more season when Harry failed to complete a fitness test on Friday 23 July and was a late withdrawal a day before the game due to a toe injury.

Harry only missed one game due to the toe injury and returned for the Friday night Round 20 game against St Kilda at Marvel Stadium. Fellow Carlton key forward Charlie Curnow had missed more than two years due to knee injuries and returned to play his first AFL game since Round 15, 2019. McKay was superb with 11 kicks, seven marks and a game-high five goals to poll seven votes in the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year Award, ranked equal second with Sam Walsh behind Jack Silvagni with nine votes. In his return game Charlie Curnow had eight disposals and kicked a goal, he went on to play Carlton’s last four AFL games of the season.

In the post-game interview on Fox Footy McKay who led the Coleman Medal award by 11 goals was asked about the prospect of winning the award, McKay replied “Yeah, obviously it would be something nice to look back on to get at the end of the year, but we have still got three games left, there’s a lot of good forwards in form, look at Tom Hawkins, Jack Riewoldt, even the King boys playing really good footy. I reckon the second you start thinking about the end result and the end of the year you get in a bit of trouble so I know it sounds cliched, but just one week at a time and we will see what happens.” 

Against the Gold Coast in Round 21 on Saturday 7 August at Marvel Stadium McKay had 11 disposals, took an equal team-high eight marks, kicked one goal and had a season-high four inside 50’s.

On Thursday 12 August the Carlton Football club announced on carltonfc.com.au that “CARLTON forward Harry McKay (shoulder) will miss the remaining two games of the home and away season. Following initial scans on McKay’s right shoulder, the Club sought further specialist advice during the week which confirmed he will require surgery to repair a high-grade injury to his AC joint. McKay will undergo the surgery on Thursday morning.”5

During 2021 McKay played 19 of a possible 22 games for Carlton and averaged 8.1 kicks, 1.6 handballs, 6.0 marks, and 3.05 goals per game. McKay led Carlton for total goals, marks inside 50 and contested marks, ranked third for marks and score involvements. McKay took 3.63 marks inside 50 and 2.63 contested marks per game to lead the AFL in both categories. McKay kicked at least four goals in a game seven times in 2021 including five times in the first eight rounds of the season.

In his first four AFL seasons from 2017 to 2020 McKay kicked 71 goals from 48 games at an average of 1.48 goals per game. During 2021 McKay averaged just over twice as many goals per game than he did in first four seasons, kicking 58 goals from 19 games at an average of 3.05 goals per game. 

McKay became just the third Carlton player of all-time to win the Coleman Medal, joining two-time winner Brendan Fevola (2006 and 2009), and 1961 winner Tom Carroll in this category.  The Coleman Medal has been awarded from 1955 onwards. Five Carlton players won the leading goalkicker medal before 1955 – Mick Grace (1906), Vin Gardner (1911), Ern Cowley (1918), Horrie Clover (1922) and Harry Vallance (1931).

On winning the 2021 Coleman Medal McKay told carltonfc.com.au “Younever play for the individual stuff but it’s nice when they come along. It was an interesting year in terms of watching the tallies and who was kicking goals, made it a little bit exciting towards the end of the year. It’s probably more something I’ll look back on when I’m a bit older. A lot of people tell you how big of an achievement it is — it’s an amazing award. I think when I’m a bit older and my career’s done, I’ll look back on it with some fond memories.”6

On Monday 23 August McKay was one of three Carlton players included in the All-Australian squad of 40 players along with key defender Weitering and midfielder Walsh. The trio of Walsh, Weitering and McKay are also Carlton’s three nominees for the AFL Players’ Association Most Valuable Player Award.

On Thursday 26 August McKay was named at full-forward in the 2021 All-Australian and Walsh was named on the wing, the first time they had each been selected in the team. Of the 18 players selected on the ground in the 2021 All-Australian team 16 of them play for AFL teams that made the finals in 2021, the exceptions were Carlton duo McKay and Walsh who were also the two youngest members of the 22 player team at 23 and 21 years of age respectively.

Carlton’s calculated risk to select Harry McKay with pick 10 at the 2015 National Draft has well and truly paid dividends. At 23 years of age McKay has already been Carlton’s leading goalkicker three times (2019 to 2021). During 2021 McKay was one of the most improved players in the AFL, winning the Coleman Medal and leading the league for contested marks and marks inside 50 per game to be a deserving selection in the 2021 All-Australian team.  

Articles and photographs by Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777


1 https://www.melbournefc.com.au/news/458294/tall-forwards-rucks-named-for-combine

2 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – The essential number-cruncher for season 2019, 14th Edition, page 78

3 https://www.afl.com.au/news/631938/off-the-table-blues-lock-away-in-demand-forward-harry-mckay

4 https://www.carltonfc.com.au/news/973970/no-snap-decision-mckay-backing-in-technique

5 https://www.carltonfc.com.au/news/998868/injury-update-jones-and-mckay

6 https://www.carltonfc.com.au/news/1009119/the-best-is-yet-to-come-for-coleman-medallist-mckay

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Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey, such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey sportspeople have had during their career.

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