MELBOURNE young gun Angus Brayshaw is expected to be fit for round one despite suffering a knee injury in the opening seconds of the club's 19-point win over Port Adelaide in Saturday's NAB Challenge clash at Playford Alive Oval in Elizabeth.
Brayshaw was crushed in a strong tackle from Hamish Hartlett, which left the 20-year-old unable to take his free kick; he was then assisted from the ground in obvious pain.
He emerged from the rooms in the second term on crutches with his knee strapped; the Demons later revealed he had a low-grade medial ligament sprain.
His side didn't appear to miss his talent, though, piling on six unanswered third-quarter goals to eventually seal a 0.15.5 (95) to 1.10.7 (76) victory.
Stand-in coach Simon Goodwin hailed his side's ability to fight its way back into the contest after half-time.
"[We were able to] get ourselves back into the game after a slow start, our ability to just change the flow of the game," Goodwin said.
"We looked a bit shaky early, just made a few skill errors and defensively we looked a little bit poor but it was great to actually fight our way back."
They trailed by 16 points at quarter-time, pushing a Port line-up strengthened by the return of 12 senior players.
No.4 draft pick Clayton Oliver was a force on the inside for Melbourne early on, while Jack Viney kept that intensity for the entire match.
Demons ruckman Max Gawn was dominating Matthew Lobbe but when Robbie Gray crumbed his own contest and snapped a third-straight goal for the Power, their lead had blown out to 30 points.
As they tired that margin evaporated. Former Pie Ben Kennedy swooped to boot his first goal in red and blue and a second to Jeff Garlett gave Melbourne the lead midway through the third.
Port limited its interchange rotations and then gave a few key players an early afternoon (Matt White, Tom Jonas), helping the Demons' cause.
But given their contested possession and clearance dominance few could argue against the validity of the 19-point win.
"Second half we just didn't match Melbourne's intensity at all and they won the game clearly from that," Power coach Ken Hinkley said.
"We delivered half a performance and that's not good enough, that's never, ever going to win you football at this level."
WHAT WE LEARNED
Port Adelaide: The Power will be crossing their fingers that Charlie Dixon can return for the club's final NAB Challenge match because without him their forward line lacked punch. Chad Wingard was also sidelined, but on Saturday they relied too heavily on the midfield group to kick goals.
Melbourne: Another pre-season under Paul Roos looks to have significantly improved this unit. The Demons' pressure was first rate – particularly in the third term. Their new recruits also appear to have gelled well with the playing group over the summer.
Port Adelaide: Having returned a host of senior players to their starting side, the Power's only new player was former Demon Jimmy Toumpas, who was playing his second NAB Challenge clash. Toumpas ran hard and continued his promising pre-season form with 17 disposals. He showed good fight late in the game too when he stood up to a much bigger opponent after some rough treatment.
Melbourne: In his first game, Clayton Oliver showed he can handle himself on the inside. Ben Kennedy took a little while to get going but finished as one of the side's best contributors with two goals. Tom Bugg was tough (seven tackles), while draftee Josh Wagner was quiet.
The Power have a week off before facing Richmond on March 10, the club's final hit-out before round one. Ken Hinkley will look to field his best possible line up, which should include Chad Wingard and could include Charlie Dixon. Melbourne will take on the Western Bulldogs in its second game of the NAB Challenge next week.
PORT ADELAIDE 1.3.3 1.6.5 1.6.5 1.10.7 (76)
MELBOURNE 0.2.2 0.4.3 0.10.5 0.15.5 (95)
Port Adelaide: Broadbent
Port Adelaide: Westhoff 3, Boak 3, Schulz, White, R Gray, Young
Melbourne: Garlett 3, Kent 2, vandenBerg 2, Pedersen 2, Salem, Kennedy, Jones, Hogan, Harmes, Tyson
Port Adelaide: Boak, Westhoff, Hartlett, Toumpas, Sam Gray, Pittard
Melbourne: Gawn, Viney, vandenBerg, Garlett, Kennedy, Tyson
Melbourne: Brayshaw (knee)
Umpires: Donlon, Fleer, Mollison
Official crowd: 4,981 at Playford Alive Oval