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Melbourne Football Club

Four new players named for round one

MELBOURNE has named four new players, including two who will make their AFL debut, for Saturday’s clash against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.

Four-time Hawthorn premiership player Jordan Lewis and former Bomber Jake Melksham will play their first home and away match for Melbourne, with draftee Mitch Hannan and rookie Joel Smith set to make their AFL debut.

General manager of football operations Josh Mahoney said Melbourne wanted to pick a team ready to go.

“With the team in round one, we wanted to make sure we picked a fit side and there weren’t many players who were underdone. We think with the 22 we’ve picked for round one, they fall into this category,” he told melbournefc.com.au.  

“It’s great to have four new players to the team, including two debutants and two from other clubs. Both Jordan Lewis and Jake Melksham will give us great experience and flexibility through the midfield and off half-back.

“We’re excited to see the debut of Joel Smith, whose first season with us was last year, having joined as a category B rookie. He had a good developing year with Casey in the VFL. He showed some really good signs – he’s super athletic and has great speed. His pre-season this year has been very good and already his first two games in the JLT Series were impressive, so he’s deserved his debut and we look forward to seeing him play on the weekend.

“The other debutant is Mitch Hannan, who we always thought would be a bit more progressed than the younger draftees, because he’s a little bit older and has played at VFL level before. He had an interrupted start to pre-season, as he was recovering from shoulder surgery, but his last month of training and his last games in the VFL were very good. He deserves his opportunity to play, which I know he’s very excited about.”

Mahoney said defender Neville Jetta and small forward Jeff Garlett had overcome recent injury setbacks and were ready to go.

“Neville Jetta has recovered really well from a quad injury, which he did in early February,” he said.

“Although he didn’t play any games during the JLT Series, he has trained really hard and played the past two games in the VFL.

“We think with his experience, he’ll be able to handle the loads of round one and it’s similar to Jeff Garlett, who did his hamstring in the first JLT game. He’s had a month of solid training and played last week in the VFL and has hit all of the triggers that we wanted for him to be available for selection.”

Mahoney said ruckman Jake Spencer was close to selection after an impressive pre-season.

“There was a lot of discussion at match committee about the ruck situation and Jake Spencer had a very good JLT Series, but in the end, we went for one genuine ruckman and the second ruck role to be played by others,” he said.  

Along with Spencer, utility Tom Bugg and forward/midfielder James Harmes have been named emergencies.

Midfielder Dom Tyson and hard-nut Dean Kent were not considered for round one, after having interrupted pre-seasons.

Although the pair played matches in the past two weeks, Tyson came back from a knee injury and Kent a back issue.

“The match committee felt that both Dom Tyson and Dean Kent needed to get a bit more match fitness, before being considered for selection,” he said.

“They’ll both play for Casey Demons in a practice match this weekend and they both could potentially be available for round two selection next week. 

“I think it’s really important for both of these players that we set them up for a good season, rather than rushing them back for round one. That was our mindset behind those decisions.”

From Melbourne’s round 23 match last year, the side has six changes.

Bugg, Sam Frost, Harmes, Matt Jones, Dom Tyson and Aaron vandenBerg all played in the final round last year; Smith, Melksham, Lewis, Alex Neal-Bullen, Clayton Oliver and Hannan have come in.

Tyson, Kent, Harmes, Spencer, Jack Trengove, Cam Pedersen, Ben Kennedy, Dion Johnstone, Tim Smith, Pat McKenna, Corey Maynard, Declan Keilty and Lochie Filipovic will play in a VFL practice match for Casey Demons. 

Melbourne: round one

B: Neville Jetta, Oscar McDonald, Christian Salem

HB: Jayden Hunt, Tom McDonald, Jake Melksham

C: Billy Stretch, Nathan Jones, Bernie Vince

HF: Christian Petracca, Jack Watts, Sam Weideman

F: Angus Brayshaw, Jesse Hogan, Jeff Garlett

Foll: Max Gawn, Jordan Lewis, Jack Viney

I/C: Mitch Hannan, Alex Neal-Bullen, Clayton Oliver, Joel Smith

Emg: Tom Bugg, James Harmes, Jake Spencer