MELBOURNE has made three changes for Saturday’s clash against Fremantle at the MCG at 1.45pm.
Coach Simon Goodwin confirmed on Thursday morning that ruckman Jake Spencer would play in place of the injured Max Gawn, who will miss at least 12 weeks with a hamstring injury.
It will be Spencer’s first AFL match since round 22, 2015 – coincidentally against Fremantle at Domain Stadium.
Along with Spencer, big man Sam Frost and hard-nut Tom Bugg have been named for their first game for the year.
Frost was sidelined from the first JLT Community Series match until round one, due to a toe injury. He has spent the past two weeks playing for Casey in VFL practice matches.
Bugg was an emergency in rounds one and three, and played in Melbourne’s three JLT games.
Goodwin said Spencer had been in “terrific form at VFL level” and deserved his opportunity.
“Jake’s been in terrific form at VFL level and he had a really good summer. We’ve been dying to get him into the team at some stage and it’s a great opportunity for Jake this week,” Goodwin told Melbourne TV.
“Sam’s back on track now and … he’ll take a key post position down back.
“Tom Bugg’s a great little story for us. He had a really strong JLT for us, but just missed selection in round one and has done everything he possibly can to get himself back into the team. We’re really excited to get Tom into the team. He’s created some winning habits around the footy club and I’m sure that’ll come out on Saturday.”
Defender Oscar McDonald and forward Tim Smith have been omitted.
It will be the first time this season McDonald has missed a match, while Smith is out of the side after making his AFL debut last round against Geelong at Etihad Stadium.
McDonald and Smith have been named emergencies, along with former co-captain Jack Trengove.
“We just want Oscar to go back and get some belief and confidence in the way he plays,” Goodwin said.
“Tim’s played the one game and we think he’s developing nicely into a forward that we want – we’ve just changed the balance of our forward line and Tim misses out.
“But we’ve got great expectations that Tim will go back and play the game the right way at VFL level and get his opportunity again in the not too distant future.”
Small forward Jeff Garlett will play his 150th AFL game this weekend.
Meanwhile, in the opening round of the VFL season, Casey Demons take on Williamstown at Burbank Oval on Easter Monday at 2pm.
Trengove, Angus Brayshaw, Michael Hibberd, Cam Pedersen, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Oscar McDonald, Ben Kennedy, Dion Johstone, T.Smith, Mitch White, Declan Keilty and Corey Maynard.
Lochie Filipovic has been named in the VFL Development League.
Melbourne team: round four
B: Jake Melksham, Tom McDonald, Jayden Hunt
HB: Neville Jetta, Sam Frost, Nathan Jones
C: Bernie Vince, Clayton Oliver, Billy Stretch
HF: Dean Kent, Sam Weideman, James Harmes
F: Jeff Garlett, Jack Watts, Christian Petracca
Foll: Jake Spencer, Dom Tyson, Jack Viney
I/C: Christian Salem, Mitch Hannan, Alex Neal-Bullen, Tom Bugg
Emg: Jack Trengove, Oscar McDonald, Tim Smith
In: Frost, Bugg, Spencer
Out: Max Gawn (hamstring), O.McDonald, T.Smith