MELBOURNE may have to be "adventurous" with its ruck department in coming weeks with Jake Spencer set to join first-choice big man Max Gawn on the sidelines.
Spencer suffered an AC joint injury to his shoulder in the second term of the Demons' 13-point loss to Richmond, compounding the club's ruck woes following Gawn's long-term hamstring tear.
The Demons were reluctant to speculate on the extent of Spencer's injury soon after the Anzac Day eve clash with the Tigers, saying the severity of the issue will become clearer during the week.
"We'll have to assess that once the dust settles and get through the next couple of days," coach Simon Goodwin said after the game.
Fellow Demon Tim Smith was also ruled out of the game early against the Tigers after copping a knee in a marking contest. He was sent to hospital and will spend Monday night there nursing fractured ribs with medicos also checking on his lung.
The injuries meant the Demons had to use Jack Watts in the ruck for longer stints against the Tigers alongside Sam Frost at times, with the Melbourne selection panel set to look at its options in the VFL if Spencer is to miss an extended period.
Developing big man Mitch King returned from a knee reconstruction on the weekend to play his first VFL game since last season but Goodwin was non-committal about whether the youngster was ready to play at the top level.
"That's something we'll discuss as a match committee. There's some options that are there. We have to think about our best way forward [and] it's something I probably haven't thought about just yet," he said.
Former Kangaroo Cam Pedersen is another option the Dees could turn to lead their ruck division given his ability to pinch-hit in the role in the past, and has strong VFL form under his belt.
Goodwin acknowledged the Dees might have to think outside the square to find the right choice if Spencer's injury is severe, having given up 60 hit-outs to 27 against Richmond.
"As a coaching group we've always said that we want to be adventurous and we might just have to be that now," he said.
"We've lost a few soldiers in Max and Jake, potentially, so we'll have to think a little bit laterally and come up with a plan this week that's going to work for the footy club."
Christian Petracca had a knock to his knee in the first term and, although slightly limited, returned to play out the game and have an impact up forward. Goodwin expects the 2014 No.2 draft pick to be available to face Essendon next Sunday, with the club also optimistic Angus Brayshaw will be available for selection despite another concussion in the VFL over the weekend.
The Demons' third-straight loss came after they had dominated the game for the first three quarters, particularly in the opening term when they registered 19 inside 50s to five.
But with two men on the bench for the second half they were unable to stop the Tigers' wave of momentum, conceding five goals to none in the final term.
"It's a tough balance as a coach. You sit here and you're so proud of the way they played, and the way they fought, and the way they scrapped and the way they gave everything they had for a large part of that game," Goodwin said.
"But I reckon when you become a really good team you actually find a way to get the result you need. And we're not at that point yet. We still need to have more composure at the end of quarters and stop the opposition scoring better.
"I sit here incredibly proud of the group as well. It's a really mixed feeling because they did play the way we wanted them to play for a large part of the game."
A highlight for the Dees was the performance of Michael Hibberd, who gathered 27 disposals, eight rebound 50s and kicked a steadying goal in his first game for the club since crossing from Essendon.
It was also his first game since August, 2015, after serving a WADA-imposed anti-doping ban last season, and Goodwin praised the hard-at-it defender for his showing.
"I thought it was terrific. New player to our footy club playing his first game and he played the way Michael can play. He's a courageous player and he plays with all his heart and he gave that to the club tonight," he said.