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Demons happy with AFL forward mix for now

Melbourne are content with their new “hybrid” attacking set-up but remain hopeful key forward Tom McDonald will prove his fitness to play a role in their AFL finals campaign.

McDonald returned to action through the VFL last week after more than three months out with a foot injury and got through unscathed, kicking 1.1 from 11 disposals.

But the 29-year-old will not be selected to take on Sydney in Friday night’s qualifying final as he is considered too big a risk to the team and his own health off a limited preparation.

The extended absence of last season’s third-most prolific goalkicker has forced coach Simon Goodwin to experiment with his attack since McDonald went down in May.

Sam Weideman was given opportunities and Jake Melksham has grabbed his chance in the latter stages of the season, while All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn has spent more time forward.

“We’ve gone a little bit more hybrid and stumbled across something where Melky’s been able to give us a different look ahead of the ball,” assistant coach Troy Chaplin said.

“Bayley (Fritsch) has had another important year for us kicking over 50 goals, Benny Brown’s always a threat and we’ve been able to throw Gawny forward and trust Jacko (Luke Jackson) in the ruck a little bit more.

“So with Tommy going out you’ve got to be a little bit innovative and that’s what we’ve been able to do.

“As long as that group keeps performing we’ll keep backing it in.”

Melbourne’s reserves – the Casey Demons – are through to a VFL preliminary final, to be played next weekend (September 10-11).

Ideally, McDonald would play in the match and be available for selection in an AFL preliminary final the following week, assuming Melbourne beat Sydney to advance directly.

“We just need to get some games into him,” Chaplin said.

“Time’s running out but hopefully we get the win and that allows him (some time).

“He’s going to have another couple of really good sessions with the VFL team, they’re into a prelim, so he’s given himself every opportunity.

“Missing that much footy with the injury he’s had is just too big of a risk for him.

“We’d hate for him to go down but also put him in a position where we’re setting him up to fail.

“Playing only one game is just too big of a risk.”

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