A COMBINATION of Jake Spencer and Jack Watts is likely to be answer to the long-term injury absence of All Australian ruckman Max Gawn, Melbourne co-captain Nathan Jones says.
The Demons were dealt a savage blow on Monday when Gawn revealed he would miss up to three months with the hamstring tendon he injured against Geelong on Saturday.
Jones told radio station RSN that while Gawn would be sorely missed, the Demons had the game-plan and reinforcements to cover for the key playmaker.
"Fundamentally we're worried more about system, and we feel that will hold up – it's not so much the stars and personnel that matter," Jones said.
"Whether or not Maxy is playing, I think we can still execute that and I felt like we proved that (against Geelong).
"When Maxy goes down it creates opportunity and I think for where we're at as a team, we've got to really embrace that."
Watts, who did the majority of the ruck work against the Cats when Gawn went down, will likely partner Spencer in trying to curb the influence of Fremantle star Aaron Sandilands when the teams meet a the MCG on Saturday.
Jones was impressed with the forward's efforts in the highly combative position, and hopes Watts' performance will be a springboard to a productive year after his commitment was questioned over the pre-season.
"Wattsy was forced to play No.1 ruck, and after being challenged (with) scrutiny for his (poor attitude in the pre-season), the effort that he put in on the weekend to play out of position and compete and challenge himself, he was a real asset for us," Jones said.
"I think it's a massive feather in his cap and hopefully to can continue to build a really strong season off the back of that."
While Gawn's injury woes should see him back mid-season, problems affecting forward Jesse Hogan may take longer to solve.
The star forward was photographed smoking at a Perth music festival on the weekend while on leave from the club during a two-week suspension.
While he refused to go into specifics, Jones conceded the club was helping his young teammate with personal issues.
"It's been reported that Jesse has a bit going on personally, which (as a club) we're not willing to go into, (but) I think we he's ready he'll probably talk about that," Jones said.
"We don't condone (his smoking), but we'll support him through the stuff he's going through at the moment."