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

MELBOURNE will spend the next eight days weighing up whether midfield star Clayton Oliver features in its AFL season-opener against Sydney or continues his return through the reserves.

Oliver was a class above as he made it through a second successive VFL scratch match on Wednesday morning, before the club's senior team brushed aside Carlton by 38 points in an impressive AAMI Community Series performance later that evening.

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The Demons have rejigged their midfield in the absence of Oliver and the recently retired Angus Brayshaw, with Christian Salem (23 disposals, nine tackles) playing purely onball and with Tom Sparrow (20 disposals, three goals) among their best performers at Ikon Park.

But the club's assistant coach Andrew McQualter said after its victory over Carlton that Oliver was in a great spot, even if a decision on whether the 26-year-old plays against Sydney remains up in the air.

"He'll definitely play footy next week," McQualter said.


"It's awesome, he's in a great spot at the moment. He played in the VFL today, but I'm not sure if he plays Opening Round. I'd love to know it as much as you. At the moment, our biggest focus is setting him up for a great year.

"It's a long year ahead, but he's in a terrific spot at the moment."

Melbourne is almost certain to hand last year's No.7 pick Caleb Windsor his AFL debut against Sydney, after the youngster impressed against Carlton to finish with two superb goals playing on a wing.

Windsor dovetailed nicely alongside fellow Demons recruit Jack Billings, who finished with 17 disposals and a goal himself, providing coach Simon Goodwin with a couple of nice options in the absence of the injured Lachie Hunter (calf).

"He (Windsor) has really given himself every chance, hasn't he?" McQualter said.

"He's had a terrific pre-season, he's trained really hard. He's a young kid and there's lot of his game that he'll get better at, but he's given himself a real look at it."


Carlton is hopeful its own selection issues won't be compounded by an injury to small forward Jesse Motlop, who was withdrawn just before quarter-time after jarring his toe in a tackle.

The Blues are likely to be without fellow small forwards Jack Martin (knee), Corey Durdin (hamstring) and Matt Owies (calf) against Brisbane next Friday night, with Motlop otherwise set to partner new recruit Orazio Fantasia in attack.


Speaking after the game, Carlton assistant coach Ash Hansen said that Motlop's withdrawal was purely precautionary and that the club had been looking to inject fellow youngster Jaxon Binns into the game.

"We were conservative," Hansen said.

"He had a jarred toe in the tackle. Being his last game, we didn't want to take any risks.

"We've had a really positive pre-season and Jesse's had his best pre-season of the three he's had, which you'd hope for with a younger player. It was more about managing all of those guys. If there was any risk, we had guys on the bench we were willing to activate to give them some exposure. We took no chances."