A FULL bill of health and some promising form means one thing for backline coach Troy Chaplin: a selection conundrum.

But this isn’t one he will dread, in fact, it’s the greatest luxury to have.

The Demons have returned from isolation in good shape and with Round 2 just over a week away, the best defensive mix is still to be determined.

“It’s getting tight for spots because what we’re trying to do is find a group that functions really well,” Chaplin said on the club’s Inside Melbourne podcast.

“We’re not sure what it’s going to look like yet because we’ve got probably 11 guys who are really vying for the seven spots.

“It’s going to make it really interesting.”

It has been 11 weeks since the Dees’ last official game making it hard for the coaches to get a true indication of what the best line-up is. But since returning to Casey Fields, Chaplin has liked what he has seen.

“All the guys have played well in the internal trials … and are training well as well,” he said.

“I think the beauty of our list at the moment is we’ve got 40 blokes who are training, we’ve only got a couple who are missing out, so it’s not just the defender’s group.

“It’s a healthy thing, and what it does is it drives that competitive element amongst that group.

“There’s going to be guys who generally play that may miss out and it’s a great position to be in, and one that we’re looking forward to as coaches.

“We’ve got young guys who have come on really quickly after having a bit of time off and showed something, so it’s exciting times.”

There are plenty of reasons for the Demons’ assistant coach to be optimistic ahead of the season’s restart, but Jake Lever and Steven May are at the top of the list.

“It’s exciting because the club got those guys in because it was probably an area we were lacking, and we just haven’t seen them play footy together,” Chaplin said.

“Now what they’ve been able to do is do a full pre-season together.”

01:35 Mins
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Inside Melbourne | Defending Pillars

Troy Chaplin discusses the importance of having a strong defensive duo down back.

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And with enough time spent on the track, the fiery duo should be ready to perform against the Blues next weekend.

“That’s probably the beauty of both of them, they’re extremely competitive footballers,” Chaplin said.

“All footballers are competitive, otherwise you don’t play the game, but these two guys play with a chip on their shoulder and it’s exciting.

“Both guys are starting to work out how each other move, how each other play, and they’re probably our two best communicators on the field in terms of the way we want to set up.

“It makes my job easier, it’s a luxury to have, and I’m just really looking forward, and hoping, that we can see them two play a lot of football together.

“If they can, and get that continuity and cohesiveness together, then who knows. Most of the premiership teams or the successful teams of the past have had two pretty strong pillars in their backline, and I think we’re heading towards that.”

Lever and May won’t be on their own in the defensive half of the ground, with a number of players looking to secure their spot in Melbourne’s best 22.

Joel Smith is no exception.

“Unfortunately for Joel he’s had a lot of injuries and it’s plagued his career so far,” Chaplin said.

“But I think playing as a defender and the role we’re looking to play him in as that deep defender, it looks after his body a little bit.

“I’ve never seen an athlete capable of what he is in terms of endurance, but the repeat efforts, the speed, and when he’s in that group he adds something different.

“So we’re excited by what Joel can bring … and he’s right in the mix for that game against Carlton next week.”

In the Dees’ season opener against West Coast, Oscar McDonald, Michael Hibberd, Neville Jetta and James Harmes all helped out in defence, but it was Jay Lockhart whose performance flew under the radar.

“Jay’s an interesting sort of character in terms of he doesn’t have the name … but he’s very diligent and he’s got a wealth of knowledge around the way we want to play and he’s a leader in his own right,” Chaplin said.

“Sometimes you don’t need to be the best player, but you can be that role player and he’s really accepted that.”

Tune into this week’s episode of Inside Melbourne below to hear more from Chaplin as he discusses the intricacies of his backline and previews the Round 2 clash with the Blues.

29:26 Mins
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Inside Melbourne | Troy Chaplin and Alan Richardson

It's coaches week on the podcast, as Alan Richardson and Troy Chaplin join Ben Gibson on Inside Melbourne.

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