MELBOURNE has finished its pre-season campaign with a dominant win over Carlton as it prepares to kick-off its 2024 AFL Season against Sydney in seven days’ time.

The Demons prevailed at IKON Park by 38 points, with Christian Salem praising the improvement of their defensive method, which was challenged in last week’s match-simulation against Richmond.

“We had a really big focus on defence and contest, obviously last week we conceded too many points, our defence wasn’t up to scratch,” Salem told Melbourne Media.

“So, it was good to clear that today, keeping them to about 63 points.”


Having been at the centre of commentary surrounding their scoring impact in 2023, the Demons used the Wednesday night match to show what they’re capable of this season, with 20 marks inside 50 and 10 individual goalkickers.

Salem emphasised the importance of the various phases of the game and how that can impact Melbourne’s score line.

“To get first use from Gawny, we were able to convert and give our forwards the best chance and they were pretty dangerous tonight,” Salem said.

“We kicked over 100 points and for us to just get the ball in there and let them get to work, we’re pretty dangerous whether it’s air or ground and each week they’re building that cohesion so they’re in a good spot for next week.

“I think we executed our roles across the board – forwards, mids and defenders – and it was good to get that sort of game in and get ready for next week because it’s going to be another contested battle.”

After a pre-season interrupted with minor injuries, Salem was able to play out the match in a new role across the midfield, having spent majority of his career as a dangerous defender rebounding off half-back.

The injury interruption during pre-season wasn’t unfamiliar territory for Salem, who spent time on the sidelines last year with a persistent thyroid concern.

Playing on-ball, the Demon impressed during the practice match, racking up 23 disposals, nine tackles and seven score involvements.

“I’ve had a few hiccups, but I’ve worked pretty hard with the medical team over the last month to make sure I’m ready to go,” Salem said.

“So, it was good to get some minutes in over the last couple of weeks.

“[Playing in the midfield] was something we were probably trialling last year but with my thyroid stuff I went away from it but I’m happy to be in there, it’s a good change up.”

Andrew McQualter, Melbourne’s midfield coach, highlighted the work of Salem and the opportunities that come with fresh faces in new roles.

“He’s a pretty good player so I think anywhere you put him he’s going to be a good player,” McQualter told media post-match.

“Clearly, we’re going to have to get a little bit creative with our midfield and so he played there tonight and was really good for us.

“It’s different and sometimes that’s a good thing, this midfield has been really strong for a long period of time, so sometimes a bit of variety and freshening things up might be good.”


McQualter, who’s been at the Dees since October of 2023, said he was pleased with the team’s ability to adjust when challenged.  

“We needed to ramp up our defence and our contest [after last week] and we were able to do that tonight, so that was great,” McQualter said.

“We had some great passages of play tonight and we were able to put some score on the board, any time you score 100 points it’s a good result, against a quality defence like Carlton as well.

“[And] I’m sure lots of it will keep getting better as the year goes.”