MELBOURNE has earmarked Christian Salem to move into the midfield in 2017 as new coach Simon Goodwin looks to add more class to his hardened group of inside ball-winners.
Salem, who has been named for the Demons' clash against the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, launched his career in 2014 as a skilful half-back but hamstring and thyroid injuries have held him back since.
Now injury free – despite a bizarre concussion in the Demons' pre-Christmas army-style camp – the 21-year-old has impressed across the summer training with the midfield group.
"He's put a lot of work in and we've trained him up to play in the midfield knowing he can play down back," Goodwin told AFL.com.au.
"He's a quality ball user … but there's also things in his game that he brings around the contest that really help us.
"We see potential in that role, but we also see that he has the ability to be an unbelievable half-back.
"We didn’t get a lot of footy out of him last year, so we see him in some ways as a bit of a recruit this year."
Building his engine has been a focus for Salem, but his ball use, composure and smarts are aspects that will help Melbourne up the ground.
The Demons enter 2017 with a strong core of young inside midfielders, with co-captain Jack Viney, Dom Tyson and Clayton Oliver all strong ball-winners.
Throw in co-captain Nathan Jones, hardened recruit Jordan Lewis and tough youngster Angus Brayshaw and the Demons won't be caught short for contested midfielders.
Outside pace could be a query, but Goodwin was comfortable with the midfield balance on his list.
"I see the game differently. I'm not a big believer of inside or outside players," he said.
"I believe in players who can operate around their decision-making in the game … but if you asked me, 'have we got some speed?' We have.
"Jayden Hunt, Jay Kennedy-Harris, Dean Kent, Josh Wagner, James Harmes … we've got a lot of guys who have actually got speed, but it's not something I focus on."
Hunt and Kennedy-Harris were two players Goodwin nominated as potential big-improvers in 2017.
Hunt's potential is well known after being named the Demons' best young player in 2016, but Kennedy-Harris is coming off a year ruined by three hamstring injuries.
"We built him up slowly through the summer and he got his body into peak shape heading into Christmas," Goodwin said of Kennedy-Harris.
"His last seven or eight weeks have been outstanding and he'll get his opportunity through the JLT Series.
"He could easily be in our best team. He's got some attributes that he brings to our forward half that can potentially be really dangerous."