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De Koning up for AFL ruck battle: Voss

Michael Voss believes inexperienced tall Tom De Koning can grow into the lead ruck role as Carlton pursue a long-awaited AFL finals berth this season.

The Blues strengthened their hold on a top-eight position with a thumping 50-point win over North Melbourne on Saturday night, improving their win-loss record to 5-2.

And they will welcome back star duo George Hewett (calf) and Zac Williams (Achilles) from minor injuries for their round-eight clash with Adelaide.

Hewett will bolster a midfield group that supported De Koning superbly at stoppages against the Kangaroos as the 203cm ruckman did battle with Todd Goldstein and Callum Coleman-Jones.

De Koning stepped into the role after Marc Pittonet went down with a knee injury that will keep the Blues’ No.1 ruckman sidelined for up to three months.

The 22-year-old was beaten in the hit-outs with 20 compared to 36 from Goldstein and 20 from Coleman-Jones.

But he helped Carlton gain a 45-34 clearance advantage, including a 22-8 centre bounce clearance domination.

“We’d clearly like Pitto out there but I thought Tom was huge tonight,” Blues coach Voss said.

“Any time Tom found himself in an inferior position he was on the ground and he laid four or five tackles in the immediate area.

“He was able to strip the ball, we got it back and got it going our way.

“He’s on a learning journey, if you want to call it that.

“He’ll have moments where he might drop his intensity but if he’s well supported by the guys around him, we know that he’s got that in him.”

De Koning has played just 28 games in five seasons with Carlton but knows he will get opportunities with Pittonet out of the side.

His performances will be important to the Blues’ chances of ending a decade-long finals drought.

“He’s certainly up for it,” Voss said.

“He spoke about it during the week and said, ‘I feel like I’m ready to do it’.

“We’re ready to give it to him and back him in.

“He’s going to get some continuity there and he’s going to be mentored by Kreuz (ruck coach Matthew Kreuzer) and Pitto through this period and he’s got a midfield that’s there for him.

“He sets himself up well.”

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