Caleb Windsor battles with Adam Cerra during the AAMI Community Series match between Melbourne and Carlton at Ikon Park on February 28, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

MELBOURNE youngster Caleb Windsor appears certain for an Opening Round debut in eight days' time, showing flashes of his immense potential in the side's AAMI Community Series victory over Carlton on Wednesday night.

In the absence of Lachie Hunter, who is still battling a calf injury, Windsor was among the game's most influential performers and kicked two classy goals on the run as the Demons secured a comfortable 15.11 (101) to 10.3 (63) win at Ikon Park.

Sharing wing duties with fellow Melbourne off-season recruit Jack Billings, last year's No.7 pick also provided plenty of run in the oppressive February heat to do all he could to feature in next Thursday night's proper bout with Sydney.


It was a night where the Demons also quietened any simmering concerns over their attacking potency leading into the 2024 campaign, finding 10 individual goalkickers and taking 20 marks inside 50 throughout a dominant display.

Carlton looked undermanned and was outgunned defensively in the absence of Jacob Weitering, who will miss Opening Round due to a calf injury, with Josh Schache (two goals) and Jacob van Rooyen (seven marks, one goal) combining well in attack.

BLUES v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats

Schache and van Rooyen also provided capable ruck support to veteran Max Gawn, who was easily the contest's best player. In a vintage display, the Demons captain finished with 24 disposals, 30 hitouts, five clearances and two goals in the 38-point win.

The returning Christian Salem (23 disposals, nine tackles) was another big tick for Melbourne's chances ahead of the upcoming season, having dealt with hamstring and back issues over the summer, while Tom Sparrow (20 disposals, seven tackles, three goals) was arguably the game's best midfielder.


Carlton's defensive concerns in Weitering's absence will trouble coach Michael Voss ahead of next Friday night's opener against Brisbane, though in attack Harry McKay (18 disposals, 10 marks, three goals) and Charlie Curnow (three goals) looked as dangerous as ever.

Patrick Cripps (26 disposals, seven clearances, one goal) was also a reliable midfield contributor, while youngster Ollie Hollands (16 disposals) joined him on the inside and was another to impress within an otherwise sloppy Blues outfit.

New faces
Melbourne's No.7 draft pick Caleb Windsor was excellent across the wing, staking his claim for an Opening Round debut with a performance capped by two nice running goals on either side of half-time. Ex-St Kilda star Jack Billings shared wing duties with the youngster and also impressed, while Blake Howes did some nice things across half-back. Kynan BrownWill Verrall and Koltyn Tholstrup only saw late action, coming on midway through the last term. Orazio Fantasia should make his Carlton debut in Opening Round after flashing glimpses of his quality as a small forward, while Elijah Hollands also looks bound for plenty of footy in 2024 after continuing his nice summer. Jaxon Binns came on after quarter-time and showcased some of his elite running capacity, having already played in a VFL practice match earlier in the day. Billy Wilson came on for the final quarter and played across half-back.


Round one chance
Melbourne should feel confident in picking new recruits Caleb Windsor and Jack Billings, who impressed in the absence of the injured Lachie Hunter. There were also some nice signs from Jacob van Rooyen and Josh Schache, who could both be needed if Harrison Petty misses. Bailey Laurie will be an option if there is no Shane McAdam or Charlie Spargo for Opening Round, especially with Kysaiah Pickett suspended. Sam Durdin impressed in a VFL practice match earlier in the day for Carlton and could challenge Lewis Young for a spot in the backline, though Brodie Kemp settled after a nervous first half. There were good signs from Orazio Fantasia and Lachie Fogarty in small forward roles, which was timely given the likely absence of Jack Martin, Corey Durdin and Matt Owies.

Medical room
Carlton took no risks with small forward Jesse Motlop, who jarred his toe in the opening quarter and didn't return afterwards. The club is still hopeful that Sam Walsh (back) plays in Opening Round, while Zac Williams (knee) made his long-awaited return and got through successfully in a VFL scratch match earlier in the day. But there are doubts over Jack Martin (knee), Corey Durdin (hamstring) and Matt Owies (calf), while Jacob Weitering (calf) has already been ruled out. Melbourne star Clayton Oliver (personal) also made it through a VFL practice match earlier in the day, while Harrison Petty (toe) and Shane McAdam (calf) are others being monitored going into Opening Round. Lachie Hunter (calf) and Charlie Spargo (Achilles) are in some doubt.

Fantasy watch
It was all about Max Gawn (RUC, $831,000) top-scoring with 130 thanks to a dominant display in the ruck with 30 hitouts and two goals. His 26.5 per cent ownership is set to rise following this performance. Christian Salem (DEF, $700,000) played as an inside midfielder in Clayton Oliver's absence and could be one to watch if he can still get some time in the middle. He scored 103 while Tom Sparrow (MID, $601,000) also finished with a Fantasy ton, racking up 113 that was helped by three goals. We should see Caleb Windsor (MID/FWD, $282,000) line up on the wing. He was impressive with two goals, but faded as the game went on. He scored 46 but is this enough to play him on-field? For the Blues, Sam Docherty (MID, $943,000) rotated through the midfield for his score of 98 but found some of the Sherrin behind the ball. Finally, Orazio Fantasia (FWD, $269,000) has been considered as a cheap forward option but his score of 22 is unlikely to tempt many potential owners. - Warnie from The Traders


CARLTON             2.0     4.0     8.2        10.3 (63)
MELBOURNE      5.1     9.4    12.7     15.11 (101)

McKay 3, Curnow 3, Cuningham, Acres, Boyd, Cripps
Melbourne: Sparrow 3, Gawn 2, Windsor 2, Schache 2, Chandler, Fritsch, van Rooyen, Pickett, Billings, Neal-Bullen

Cripps, McKay, Saad, Cripps, Curnow
Melbourne: Gawn, Sparrow, Salem, Petracca, Neal-Bullen, Windsor

Motlop (toe)
Melbourne: Nil