Christian Petracca celebrates a goal during Melbourne's clash against Carlton in round nine, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

IT IS the Melbourne magnet swap that Demons coach Simon Goodwin will be hoping can generate a blistering finals run.

Superstar Demon Christian Petracca last week spent 65 per cent of his game time as a forward against St Kilda, only the second time this season he has played more forward than midfield time. 

The other, of course, was against Carlton, when Petracca produced one of the most brilliant individual games of the season, kicking five goals from 21 disposals in round nine. That night Petracca was stationed as a forward for 69 per cent of his game time. 

Petracca's clear strengths around goal, traits which he has always possessed dating back to his bottom-age draft season when he blitzed as a medium forward, flicked a switch for the Demons. And since, a trend has emerged. 

Before then, the four-time All-Australian and 2021 Norm Smith medallist had played 84 per cent of his game time this season as a midfielder and 16 as a forward. 

In the past three rounds, against the Blues, West Coast and Saints, Petracca has been predominantly a forward, spending 54 per cent of his game time there and 46 as a midfielder. 

Christian Petracca kicks the ball during Narrm's clash against Waalitj Marawar in round 10, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

The Demons are still turning to him to get them rolling, though, with his centre bounce attendances only slightly dipping in that time (15.4 in their first eight games to 14.3 since). 

The swap has been made with his premiership teammate Alex Neal-Bullen, who has gone from playing 12 per cent in the midfield from Opening Round to round eight, to 60 per cent in the past three weeks after moving out of a near permanent forward role. Neal-Bullen attended 0.5 centre bounces on average in the Demons' first eight games but has been in 11 a game over the past three weeks. 

Petracca is clearly the weapon Melbourne wishes it had two of, but Champion Data shows his impact has been significant when thrown forward. His games against Carlton and St Kilda have been the two highest rated games of his season with 24.5 and 24.4 AFL player ratings points, with his other nine games averaging to 16 rating points, which is still very strong. 

Although the sample size is small, had Petracca played as a midfield/forward position all year and averaged 24.5 ratings points it would rank him nearly two times better than the next mid/forward for this season (Richmond's Shai Bolton with 13.1 points). 


Those two forward performances over the last three weeks have been among the top 12 ranked games of Petracca's glittering 187-game career, with his 29-disposal, eight-clearance and one-goal game against Adelaide in round four coming in at 13th spot. 

Overall, Petracca's average rating points of 17.5 across the Demons' 2024 campaign makes this, so far, the highest-rated season of his career, putting him on track for a fifth straight All-Australian guernsey.

The Demons have also been opting to use Petracca's burst and power differently, with Champion Data showing his time on ground was the lowest among 25 of the competition's premier midfielders. 


The 28-year-old has played 80.4 per cent time on ground, with Swan Errol Gulden leading the way among the top midfielders at 92.3 per cent. The likes of Luke Davies-Uniacke (86.4 per cent), Nick Daicos (84.8), Noah Anderson (84.7), Zach Merrett (84.6), Jordan De Goey (84.2), Marcus Bontempelli (83.2), Chad Warner (82.4), Isaac Heeney (81.6) and Patrick Cripps (81.5) are all playing more.

The star has already delivered Melbourne a premiership as the best on ground in its stunning 2021 Grand Final win – and the Petracca plan will again be central to the club's hopes of another this season.