Clayton Oliver in action during Melbourne's clash against Sydney in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

CLAYTON Oliver has turned his life around "significantly" since the star's well-documented struggles, according to Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin.

The gun midfielder had an encouraging start to the season in last Thursday night's loss to Sydney.

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Rivals weighed up a play for the Demon after last season and he also needed time away from the club over the summer because of his off-field problems.

Teammate Christian Petracca admitted this week he thought during the off-season that Oliver might leave Melbourne.

But Goodwin is rapt with how Oliver is going now, on and off the field.

Asked before Thursday morning training how much he thought Oliver was turning his life around, Goodwin replied "significantly".

Clayton Oliver breaks away from James Rowbottom (left) and Brodie Grundy during the match between Sydney and Melbourne at the SCG in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"You see a very healthy and happy person walking into your environment, training well, connecting with people, smiling – and they're the things we've learned to love about Clayton," Goodwin said.

"We know we have a Clayton Oliver that we love and respect and we know is going to produce some really strong football for us.

"We're incredibly happy with how he's tracking."


Goodwin also understands that he will continue to be asked about Oliver.

"We've certainly worked hard on our unity piece and making sure we're really clear about what we're expecting in our environment," he said.

"Clayton's done everything he can to be a part of that.

"I'm not disappointed – I'm not surprised, though, that it's still going.

"In the end, it's been a big topic of conversation and in the end, until we start getting some results, it's going to continue to be a topic."


Goodwin added that Oliver will only improve as he plays more games.

"He had his possessions, no doubt about that, and he got better as the game went on," the coach said.

"Clearly, his strengths – we still want to see more of what he brings to the contest and how he gets out of contest.

"That's a big part of his game. But first game back, we can't ask for much more – he delivered on everything he'd been working towards.

"He's just going to grow and get better."

The Dees will regain the exciting Kysaiah Pickett (suspension) for Sunday's MCG match against the Western Bulldogs.

Kysaiah Pickett celebrates a goal during the match between Geelong and Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium in round 15, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"It's going to be great – geez, we missed him," Goodwin said.

"He's a pretty good player, 'Koz' – to get him back in the front of the ground, where he has his biggest impact, but also around stoppage and centre bounce.

"We saw through the pre-season, he's evolving into a pretty damaging stoppage player."

Forward Harrison Petty (toe) will also most likely return on the weekend through the VFL.

"The good thing about where we're at right now is we're starting to get some competition back for spots, especially in the forward half," Goodwin said.