Oliver’s AFL form one bonus as Demons lick wounds

Roger Vaughan |

Clayton Oliver’s form was a rare highlight for the Demons during Melbourne’s AFL loss to Sydney.
Clayton Oliver’s form was a rare highlight for the Demons during Melbourne’s AFL loss to Sydney.

Clayton Oliver’s continued comeback is a rare highlight in the wake of Melbourne’s AFL loss to Sydney, which has left the Demons alarmed by their poor contest work.

Vice-captain Jack Viney notes that while Oliver is clearly short of full fitness after his tumultuous off-season, the star midfielder remains “freakish”.

Much of the talk around Melbourne after Thursday night’s season-opening loss to Sydney has focused again on their attack, with the Swans boasting more scoring shots and more inside-50s.

But Viney said their immediate post-game focus had been on Sydney’s ability to outwork them in contested play.

“We were beaten by a better side. In terms of the contest, we were beaten convincingly,” Viney said.

“It’s something we really try to pin our game on, that contest work, and to get beaten on it, it’s hard to win from there.

“Scoreboard, not too frustrating – it’s probably more the process of how we get there.

“That’s what we really look at and where the frustrations come from.”

Oliver’s game was an obvious highlight for Melbourne in their 22-point loss, especially given his off-field troubles over the past few months.

“It was great to see ‘Clars’ back out there – he’s put in a power of work over the off-season, to get himself in a position to be selected,” Viney said.

“His transition back to playing was terrific, it’s great to have him back.

“He’s coming off not ideal preparation, he’s had knee surgery, he played modified game minutes coming into the season.

“He’s probably not at his 100 per cent fittest, but even ‘Clars’ at 70-80 per cent is freakish … he’ll get back to his best real quick.”

Another feature of the match was former Demon big man Brodie Grundy outplaying Melbourne captain Max Gawn in the ruck.

“He got me in a good tackle early, he let me know about it,” Viney said of Grundy.

“You just love seeing competitive beasts (Grundy and Gawn) go at it like that.”

The loss gives Melbourne plenty of think about ahead of Sunday’s match against the Western Bulldogs, with Viney looking forward to their MCG return.

“A lot of our contests, we’ve spoken about – (we) lost clearances … there were multiple areas that broke down for us,” Viney said. 

The Demons were often in the headlines for the wrong reasons over the past few months, but Viney said the team had prepared well and there were no excuses for Thursday night’s performance.