Clayton Oliver in action during the match simulation between Melbourne and Richmond at Casey Fields on February 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

CLAYTON Oliver's successful return means Melbourne now must decide whether to play him in their season opener on March 7.

After a tumultuous off-season, the star Demons onballer played on Sunday in a reserves hitout against Richmond and showed impressive touch.

AFL CEO Andrew Dillon said while the League's wellbeing team had been working closely with the Demons around Oliver, the AFL does not have to tick off his return to play and his comeback date will be determined only by the player and his club.

Captain Max Gawn says he's inspired by the work Oliver is putting into himself after well-documented off-field problems.

But Gawn is unfussed if Oliver is held back from their opening game against Sydney at the SCG.

"There will be a discussion about it. I'm comfortable both ways," Gawn said.

"To be fair, our sole focus has been getting 'Clarry' back to training.

"With Clarry it's more day-to-day, so we just keep him going."


Gawn has been working closely with Oliver and says his opinion of his teammate has changed.

"I'm incredibly inspired by what Clarry is doing right now. He's a guy who's had a lot of trouble ... most of it is of his own accord," Gawn said.

"He's still getting some crossroads along the way, but he's focused on being the best person he can.

"I'm starting to be inspired by the Clayton Oliver story.

"He still lets me down from time to time, we're still incredibly close, but to see him run out there ... I hope we have him on the right path and I'm excited for what he can bring this year."