MELBOURNE defender Jake Lever didn't play in the club's final match simulation at Casey Fields on Saturday ahead of next week's clash with Carlton but will face the Blues.
Lever emerged from the shutdown period as one of the Demons' fittest players but they opted to manage his loads and he instead trained on an adjacent oval with injured teammate Aaron Nietschke.
The 24-year-old intercept specialist dominated Melbourne's 1km time trials when everyone returned to training in May and he looks primed to deliver on the Dees' big investment in him.
Lever and another key defensive recruit from recent years, Steven May, played together only four times last season because of respective injuries.
May was a strong performer in the four quarters of game practice, including taking a series of intercept marks, firstly playing in the royal blue side before swapping to the navy blue team.
Most of the Demons' first-choice players started in navy blue, except for defenders such as May, Neville Jetta, James Harmes and Christian Salem – but they all switched during the half-time break.
The player to watch could be athletic backman Joel Smith, who's always been a source of intrigue for the Melbourne coaching staff despite injuries restricting him to only 11 matches.
Demons played four quarters of match sim today. Joel Smith an eye-catcher down back, with contested marks like in this video. pic.twitter.com/r1TK3DHGPt— Marc McGowan (@ByMarcMcGowan) June 6, 2020
The Demons think so highly of Smith they promoted him for their 2018 preliminary final at Bayley Fritsch's expense but he missed all of last season with a groin problem.
The son of ex-Demon Shaun played in the same defensive set-up with May, Jetta, Harmes and Salem throughout the solid hitout.
Melbourne looks to have a mostly healthy list, with Aaron vandenBerg (foot) – who also last played in that 2018 preliminary final – among those to play.
Salem (glandular fever) and ex-skipper Nathan Jones (Achilles) are the likeliest additions to Melbourne's team for the contest with Carlton at Marvel Stadium next Saturday.
Harley Bennell (calf) also looks in good nick and has given his new club something to think about with his track efforts in recent weeks.
Harley Bennell involved in this passage, which results in a defensive switch and some tidy ball movement pic.twitter.com/gWjcmq1lES— Marc McGowan (@ByMarcMcGowan) June 6, 2020
Bennell joined young midfielders Tom Sparrow and James Jordon as the royal blue side's most common centre-bounce combination, with either Sam Weideman or Category B rookie Austin Bradtke rucking.
The former Docker and Sun also spent time up forward after switching into navy blue in the second half.
Weideman has fallen out of favour for the time being but worked hard and presented well.
He could yet be in calculations, given Mitch Brown, who played in round one, spent all of simulation in royal blue, while No.3 draft pick Luke Jackson and Weideman swapped teams at half-time.
Back-up big man Braydon Preuss, who's been sidelined with a knee injury, did not play.
The Demons rotated the likes of Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca, Angus Brayshaw and Jack Viney through the middle in the navy blue squad, with All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn.
Recruits Ed Langdon and Adam Tomlinson won plenty of possession on opposite wings, while Fritsch, Tom McDonald and Kysaiah 'Kozzy' Pickett were all lively in attack.
Small forwards Alex Neal-Bullen, Toby Bedford and Charlie Spargo appear to be locked in a battle for potentially one spot after all played in the season-opening loss to West Coast.
The trio played for the royal blue team for the match's duration.