MELBOURNE recruit Jake Melksham is set to play his first game in Melbourne colours on Saturday against the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval, ending a long wait to take his place in the team.
After being recruited to the Demons at the end of 2015, the 26-year-old was forced to sit out 2016 as one of the 34 past and present Essendon players serving a season-long ban handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
New Demons coach Simon Goodwin said returning to football will be a significant moment for Melksham.
"He's dying to play footy again and wants to get back on the field with teammates and enjoy the game again," Goodwin said.
"He's done an incredible amount of work over the last six months to get himself in this position and I know he's really excited about it."
Four-time premiership player Jordan Lewis is also likely to play his first game for the Demons since crossing over to the club after 264 games with the Hawks while talented rookie Joel Smith, the son of former high-flyer Shaun Smith will also play.
However the club's other recruit, former Essendon defender Michael Hibberd, is expected to line up in the second or third round of the JLT Community Series as he works his way back to full fitness.
Dom Tyson, who hurt his knee during pre-season, and Dean Kent, who has battled back soreness will also miss but should be available later in the pre-season series.
Melksham last played in round 23, 2015 when the Bombers defeated the Magpies by three points at the MCG.
He then joined the Demons on a four-year deal after being traded for pick No.25 in the 2015 NAB AFL Trade Period.
Melksham told melbournefc.com.au recently that playing his first home and away game for Melbourne would be a huge moment for him.
"It does mean more to me now. When something is taken away from you that you love, you don't realise how much you miss it until it's gone," Melksham said.