Demons trio sidelined

Lui Zacher
March 15, 2023 / 7:23 pm


INJURED premiership trio Jack Viney, Bayley Fritsch and Christian Salem will miss Melbourne’s AFL season opener against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG.

Fritsch has been battling a foot issue since it was stomped on in training a month ago, while Viney injured his knee last week.

Defender Salem, 27, has been following a modified program since the start of February due to the return of a thyroid problem.

Coach Simon Goodwin said on Thursday he wouldn’t risk the stars for the round one clash on Saturday night.

“Viney is close and is a big chance to play next week, and Fritter’s (Fritsch) is very close as well, and potentially start as well,” Goodwin said.

“Those three guys are just a little bit short in terms of their preparation, but we feel with another couple of weeks of load into their bodies, they’re going to be right for the whole season.”

The match looms as an intriguing battle with Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge contemplating using four tall forwards in Aaron Naughton, Rory Lobb, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy.

Goodwin described the move as “interesting”.

“It’s a unique thing in the game, and I think everyone in the competition is looking at it, going is this going to work?,” he said.

“There’s no doubt there’s risk playing that many talls in your forward line, and we think we’ve got some ground-level players to exploit that.

“We’re excited to go up against it, and we feel like we’ve got a back seven or eight players who will be able to combat that.

“We feel like we’re well prepared and have got some contingencies, but we’ve also got some strengths that we want to bring to them in the way we play.

“It’s going to be a great battle, and I think it’s exciting for the game.”

Looking for a big finish after bowing out of last year’s finals series in straight sets after ending the regular season in second place, the Demons added ex-Collingwood star ruckman Brodie Grundy to their mix.

Goodwin said he’ll take a ‘horses for courses’ approach to using Grundy and skipper, fellow All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn, although expected a 50:50 split.

“It’s going to be different from week to week,” the coach said.

“They are different ruckmen and have a different skill-set.

“It will depend what the game needs at any one time … and it will evolve over time.

“We will trial some things, but so far, we like what we see, and they’re building a great combination, and we will go into most games thinking it’s going to be a 50:50 split and assess on the day.”

(C) AAP 2023

Image: Melbourne star Christian Salem has been sidelined due to illness. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)