DOMINANT performances from Jesse Hogan, Christian Salem and Jeff Garlett were the highlights from Melbourne's intra-club practice match at Casey Fields on Thursday afternoon.
The only real concern out of the match was a minor head knock to Angus Brayshaw, the Dees' No.3 pick in last year's draft, who was sporting a nasty black eye after the game.
Brayshaw was pulled from the match in the second term after copping a heavy knock earlier in the game but Demons assistant coach Jade Rawlings assured fans it was only a precautionary move.
The most notable performance came from Hogan, who is yet to debut at AFL level after being restricted by a stress reaction in his back for much of last season.
The teenage forward bagged three goals in an impressive performance up forward.
"His hands were good, he competes really hard. He's a good player at ground level, as well as in the air," Rawlings said.
"There's a lot of talk about him – he's the most asked-about player at our footy club – but he's a natural competitor and we're happy with his progress so far."
Hogan was ably supported by former Carlton forward Garlett, who buzzed around at ground level all game long to nail four goals, also for the red team.
Salem, who also ran around for the red team with Hogan and Garlett, was perhaps best on ground with a polished performance from half-back.
The youngster, pick No.9 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, has been training with the defensive group in recent weeks and the shift in position allowed him to use his precise kicking skills.
"He picks it up really quickly. His defence was good as well as his offence. There's a bit of optimism there that he could be a nice player for us down back."
In a game consisting of three 20-minute periods, the Demons players split into two teams – red versus blue – for the club's first proper hit-out of the season.
The contest was played at a relatively high intensity, despite some planned moves from the coaches' box and stoppages of play, and there was a notable lift in the speed of the Demons' ball movement.
As always, skipper Nathan Jones led the way for the 'blue' team through the midfield while Heritier Lumumba, whom Melbourne acquired via a trade from Collingwood in the off-season, also spent time in the middle.
Rawlings said Garlett and Lumumba displayed their quality in their first unofficial outings with their new club.
"Garlett's a really talented player and at ground level, he's good on the lead as well and his kicking skills are good too," Rawlings said.
"We put Lumumba in the middle and he showed what he can do at stoppages and also with his run."
Youngster Billy Stretch's run and carry was noteworthy, while Sam Frost, recruited from Greater Western Sydney, and Tom McDonald were both solid in defence on opposing teams.
Jack Watts (groin), Jeremy Howe (hamstring), Bernie Vince (hamstring), Jack Fitzpatrick and rookie Aaron vandenBerg did not participate in the scratch match.
"We're not in a position to roll into a NAB Cup series, we want to put our best sides out there as much as we can and be prepared for the Gold Coast in round one with a good-shape team and some players who have got some good minutes under their belt," Rawlings said.
Melbourne kicks off its NAB Challenge campaign against Fremantle in Perth on Thursday March 5 at Fremantle Oval.