MORE THAN any time recently, Melbourne supporters will need a copy of the AFL Record when they rock up to the season opener against Port Adelaide at the MCG on March 31.
The Demons could unveil up to six new players that afternoon as both recycled players and boom draftees make a serious bid for senior selection.
Experienced trio Shannon Byrnes, Tom Gillies and David Rodan have barely missed a minute of the pre-season, while prized former Collingwood forward Chris Dawes has overcome knee and calf injuries and is now a full participant at training.
Draftees Jack Viney and Jimmy Toumpas are also rated as big chances to make their AFL debuts in the Sunday afternoon clash against the Power.
Melbourne football manager Josh Mahoney told AFL.com.au that the Demons were well placed as training starts to focus on next month's NAB Cup.
"We're potentially going to have a different looking side in round one with a good mix of new experienced players and some draftees coming in," he said. "It's really exciting for everyone to have so many changes."
Melbourne's list is looking really healthy with only three players – Jack Trengove, Mitch Clark and Max Gawn – in its rehab group.
Co-captain Trengove is out of his moon boot after an ankle injury at the end of last year and will soon resume training, while Clark had the pins removed from his foot just before Christmas and will be back running later this week.
Emerging ruckman Gawn suffered a hamstring injury at the start of pre-season – having missed all of last season because of a knee injury – and like Trengove and Clark, is expected to start playing around the start of the season.
"There was a real focus before Christmas - to get as many players as we could on the track," Mahoney said.
"We had a few guys with delayed starts to the pre-season but they're all progressing well and to now only have three guys in rehab really sets you up for the next six to eight weeks leading into the NAB Cup."
Melbourne will ramp up its training in the next few weeks with contested work evolving into full-scale match practice and is expected to take sole possession of Gosch's Paddock on March 1, replacing Collingwood, whose custom built oval alongside the Westpac Centre will be ready for use.
The Demons start t heir NAB Cup campaign against Richmond and North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on 22 February.
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