MELBOURNE is set to welcome back key trio Jack Viney, Jack Watts and Dom Tyson from injury next week, but there are fresh personnel issues on the horizon for the Demons.
Dean Kent (dislocated shoulder) was added to the club's lengthy injury list on Saturday night in its 46-point loss to top side Adelaide, while Bernie Vince is on report for a high bump on Richard Douglas.
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Vince could also come under scrutiny for his stray elbow to Crows superstar Eddie Betts' head in the opening quarter.
He was otherwise one of Melbourne's best players, restricting Rory Sloane to eight disposals before the Adelaide midfielder left the game after hitting his head on the ground in a Kent tackle in the third term.
Watts (hamstring) and Tyson (knee) went close to making the trip to Darwin, but coach Simon Goodwin confirmed they were certain starters against fellow top-four contender Port Adelaide at the MCG on Saturday week.
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Viney's fellow co-captain Nathan Jones (quad) and Christian Salem (hamstring) are another fortnight away, but Angus Brayshaw, who suffered his fourth concussion in a year in April, is set for a VFL return. Doctors will assess Kent further on Monday.
"We've had a fair few (injuries) – it'd be nice to have less – but that's footy and every club goes through that cycle at some point," Goodwin said.
"We're going through that now with injuries and we've got a bit of personnel out, but we had some positives tonight with some young kids playing. I think we had 11 guys under 50 games (and) we saw some real improvement in some of those guys.
"So where there are injuries, there is opportunity and I thought our younger guys continued to develop and evolve and we just played a very good footy team tonight."
Among the young players to impress were Jay Kennedy-Harris (28 disposals) and Alex Neal-Bullen (24, six tackles).
Kennedy-Harris was playing his first AFL game since round seven, only three weeks after being one of four Demons disciplined for breaking club rules by drinking alcohol in a six-day break between games.
"He's been in terrific form, Jay, at VFL level (and) he's really developing his game," Goodwin said.
"He played a bit more through the midfield tonight, so I was really rapt to see how he went. He's put a lot of hard work in over a number of weeks now to improve his game and he came in and looked really competent at AFL level."
But Goodwin has work to do on Melbourne's inefficiency in attack, highlighted by the fact it had more inside 50s in the opening quarter (18-14) but trailed by 35 points.
Key forward Jesse Hogan was goalless in his second game back after recovering from surgery to remove testicular cancer, and the in-form Tom McDonald kicked just one goal.
"It was costly … they were a lot more efficient going forward," Goodwin said.
"I thought they executed their fundamentals a lot better than us tonight and that's probably why they're top of the ladder.
"(Our forward efficiency) is a work in progress – it's got nothing to do with Jesse. It's just our method of play going inside 50 … we'll look at that on the tape and assess it."