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Year off drives resilient Demons duo

Mates reunite at Melbourne Michael Hibberd and Jake Melksham
As bad as it is, this has made us all resilient characters and we have learned to push forward
Jake Melksham

DESPITE spending a year on the sidelines watching his new club rise up the ladder, Melbourne recruit Jake Melksham has no doubt he is in the emerging team's best 22.

The former Bomber hopes to slot into a position across half-back or on the wing and can't wait to play in the Demons' colours alongside his best mate and fellow former Bomber Michael Hibberd. 

Traded to Melbourne a year apart, both players arrive at the club coached by respected mentor Simon Goodwin – who coached them at Essendon – determined to make the most of a fresh start. 

"There is a lot of young talent coming through but I'm pretty confident with the year off that I have given my body a bit of rest [and] I've come back fit and I think I can still add to the team," Melksham said.   

If the duo bear any bitterness for the events at Essendon in 2012 that led to them and 32 of their past teammates receiving a season-long ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, they keep it well hidden.

"As bad as it is, this has made us all resilient characters and we have learned to push forward," Melksham said. 

For Melksham it was the arrival of his baby daughter Frankie in January that provided him with much needed perspective during 2016.

"It couldn't have come at a better time for me to be honest," Melksham said.

"It kept me in a good, positive frame of mind."

Apart from domestic duties, he worked as a labourer, travelled and then made sure his body was in good shape before he arrived to start a pre-season at Melbourne for a second time. 

It was not wasted time. 

"When I was standing around digging holes full of rock I was thinking about the boys sitting in meetings going through tactics and doing all the things I thought [were] pretty boring at the club that I now cherish," Melksham said.

"I won't take anything for granted anymore. That is for sure."

Hibberd conceded the decision to leave the Bombers was tough but he felt as though he needed a fresh start to be at his best.

The thought of being alongside familiar faces such as Goodwin, Melksham, Brendan McCartney and Matthew Egan was also a positive.

"It's been a long year," Hibberd said.

The 26-year-old was able to use the time overcoming patella tendinitis and, in the process, realising how much he missed playing football.

"I have really learned to love footy a lot more. I realised that I missed it a lot and to miss a year of footy I realised this is really what I want to do and for the next however many years I have playing I am going to put everything I have into it," Hibberd said. 

"This is an exciting group and they are only going to get better."