His father, Andrew, played 244 games for Carlton including the 1995 premiership and spent nearly seven years working in the Blues’ football department.
His sister, Abbie, became the first father-daughter selection in AFLW history.
He is a member of Carlton’s Academy, and on weekends when not representing the Dragons, he coaches the under 14 girls at Prahran, and the year 10 C team at his alma mater, Melbourne Grammar.
There’s not much in Charlie McKay’s life that doesn’t involve footy.
But in 2020, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, he was denied the chance to spend his weekends chasing the Sherrin, restricted to watching the AFL’s travelling roadshow on TV from ostracised Melbourne.
Along with the NAB League, his final school football season was a write-off, particularly crushing after a strong fourth-place finish (second, due to a three-way tie at the top of the table, according to McKay) in 2019 had he and his teammates dreaming of what could have been.
Then in December, he was overlooked by Carlton in the National Draft.
Compound that with managing the intensity of year 12, and it makes for a torrid year for the 18-year-old.
But rather than bemoan the loss of football and his non-selection, McKay showed maturity in spades when considering the broader context.
“Looking at it in the wider scheme of things, people were dying and stuff like that, so while it was really bad and annoying for us, just looking at it from a wider view, obviously we’re fortunate to be in the position we’re in,” McKay said.
“Being someone who is very invested in his footy, I got a bit more time to study, which I’m fortunate for.
“Sandy’s changed age groups now so I get another crack at it, and I came away with a good ATAR and I’m in a good university course.”
It was that maturity that saw him voted into the club’s leadership group this season as a vice-captain, and lead the side against Western Jets in round five in the absence of Josh Sinn and Darby Hipwell.
As a member of Carlton’s Academy through his father-son eligibility, McKay has access to many of the resources that the AFL-listed players do, including the coaching and the elite facilities.
During the recent pause in the NAB League boys competition for the conclusion of the girls’ season, McKay was able to spend the best part of a month training fulltime with the senior Carlton squad, learning more and more about life as an AFL player.
“It’s surprisingly different because they have so much time on their hands.
“You’ll do a two-hour training session, have a bit of a break, then gym, a bit of touch, a bit of education and then at Sandy they’ll cram it all into the two and a half hours.
“But the bigger bodies at the AFL level and the fast-moving ball makes it a lot quicker and a lot harder, which I’m fortunate for.
“Hopefully I can take that back and be at a level above at NAB League level.”
McKay largely cut his teeth as a midfielder throughout his junior football at the East Malvern Knights and Prahran, but 2021 has seen him embrace a unique role of switching between the midfield and defence.
He has nominated for the midseason draft and is hoping that the adaptability will catch the eye of recruiters.
“Being a mid-back is a bit abnormal, because most people are mid-forward or just a back, so it’s good having that mixture.
“The versatility is obviously very helpful in the draft, because you can, not be drafted at either position, but it just shows the recruiters that you don’t just have a one-wood, and that’s the position that you have to play, and you’d have to develop into other positions.”
With his father’s legacy at Carlton, McKay is aware that there are more eyes on him that most of his peers.
Carrying the weight of expectations through his surname was at times a cause of frustration during his development years, with being called ‘mini Macca’ by various coaches and football people throughout his journey a particular peeve.
But he doesn’t feel the pressure, and even tapped-into the mind a former champion footballer who shared a similar predicament.
“I remember having a coffee with Jobe Watson a while ago.
“He let me know that it doesn’t actually matter how I do and that there’s no need for extra pressure.
“Obviously Dad’s told me that he doesn’t mind how my life pans-out, and if it’s footy, or if it’s not, he doesn’t mind.
“He’s really supportive in that manner and wouldn’t really mind if I chose to go down a different path.”
That ‘different path’ may involve the financial sector, having begun a commerce degree at University of Melbourne in 2021 and working part-time at accounting software business IODM in South Melbourne.
He credits that, along with an understanding support network, as stabilizing influences in maintaining the balance between footy and life.
Come 2022, if all goes to plan, they’ll become even more important as he adds to the McKay family legacy at the Blues.