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Demons 'upskilling' as runner restrictions start to bite

Young Dee ready for more responsibility Ben Guthrie joins Nat Edwards with an update on Melbourne's pre-season

MELBOURNE has spent the past six weeks feverishly "upskilling" its playing group in response to the new runner restrictions, co-captain Nathan Jones has revealed.

Coaches will be able to send runners onto the field to deliver messages only after goals this season as part of a crackdown on the number of non-playing personnel on the ground.

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That will translate to more responsibility for Demons such as Jones, fellow co-captain Jack Viney and veteran Jordan Lewis.

"We've been addressing that week to week with different scenarios and signals, and not only upskilling our leaders but also upskilling the rest of the playing group," Jones told SEN radio.

"There's an element of control with rotations, so we're not using the runner to get guys off the ground – that responsibility will be weighed more on the players.

"(There is also an expectation of) understanding game state and the flow of the game and what we want to execute at a certain time.

"There is going to be a lot more responsibility on the senior players, but also the entire group to be able to communicate that and get the job done under the pressure and heat of the game."

Jones made his competitive return from a hamstring injury via the VFL at the weekend, along with senior stars Viney (foot) and Jake Melksham (hamstring).

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All three are expecting to be part of Melbourne's round one side to face Port Adelaide on Saturday week at the MCG.

That will as good as be confirmed if they successfully negotiate "a huge training session" on Friday designed to see who is ready to go for the season proper.

Jones is entering his 14th year in the AFL and he has accepted a new role that saw him play less in the centre and more on the wing the longer the 2018 season went.

"It's an interesting one. I definitely shifted late last year and I spent a heap more time on the wing, and that changed how I have to review my game," he said.

"I'll probably spend more time there and maybe a bit of half-back and half-forward, and still spend time in the middle, but it's a bit more of a balance now.

"We've got a huge amount of depth, and guys who can play multiple positions, (so) it's about being adaptable and flexible.

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"I think that challenge, particularly at this time in my career, creates excitement for me, and I'm looking forward to it."

One player who definitely won't appear in the opening round is former Sun Steven May, the Demons' top off-season recruit, who received a one-match ban for engaging in rough conduct.

The club unsuccessfully appealed May's suspension on Tuesday night after his incident with young Lion Jarrod Berry.

"It's contentious if you call it a block or a bump," Jones said.

"I think it was a block, but I sort of understand the AFL's stance around head knocks and the look of things.

"You see those instances, in particular the action Steve did, numerous times in a game and we're actually taught to do that as part of a defensive skill.

"You're going to have bigger guys run into smaller guys and the blow's going to look more significant than other times, but my opinion is I thought he was a little bit stiff."