SIMON Goodwin's frustration in late July at the persistent questioning of Angus Brayshaw's meagre playing time might owe to multiple factors. 

Melbourne's fourth-year coach was undoubtedly sick of the question, but probably also at Brayshaw's then-lacklustre form and the fact so much was going on behind the scenes to solve it.

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The 24-year-old played career-best football in 2018 – he finished on the Brownlow Medal podium – while spending an increasing amount of time that season in an inside midfield role.

The Demons' onball rotation has been a matter of complexity for Goodwin and co. in the two years since.

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In simple terms, James Harmes moved ahead of Brayshaw last season, then Melbourne had to find more midfield opportunities this year for Petracca – but it was so much more than that.

ROUNDS 13-18 Check out the full fixture

They also went shopping post-season to fix their revolving door of wingmen, after using a competition-most 14 different players in that role in 2019.

In came Ed Langdon and Adam Tomlinson. Tomlinson, in particular, is part of the Brayshaw story.

Brayshaw started this season mostly as an inside midfielder, albeit playing only about 70 per cent of game time.

His struggles heightened when Goodwin cranked his time on a wing from about 10 per cent to 40 between rounds four and nine, with Brayshaw averaging barely 13 disposals in that period.

Consecutive matches of nine and 11 possessions, in losses to Brisbane and Port Adelaide – the latter with second-year player Tom Sparrow receiving more centre attendances – appear to have been the final straw.

THE LADDER Where is your team sitting?

Brayshaw's form revival since coincided with him playing almost exclusively as an inside midfielder in the past three matches, but plenty had to change to make that happen.

Harmes, Tomlinson, Oscar McDonald, Petracca, Sparrow, Aaron vandenBerg, Nathan Jones and even Neville Jetta were all involved.

MELBOURNE INSIDE MIDFIELD TIME

Player

R1-9

R10-12

Change

Angus Brayshaw

67%

96%

+29%

Jack Viney

93%

90%

-3%

Clayton Oliver

96%

93%

-3%

Aaron vandenBerg

7%

1%

-6%

Christian Petracca

70%

60%

-10%

Tom Sparrow

73%

55%

-18%

James Harmes

27%

0%

-27%

Harmes started the season at half-back, moved into a midfield-forward role for a bit, then was sent to defence again from round nine, with Jetta going out of the side.

Tomlinson lost his spot after round five and returned five games later as predominantly a key defender – meaning McDonald was dropped.

The Tomlinson move is paying dividends, and he's conceded only two goals to a combination of Darcy Cameron, Brody Mihocek, Josh Walker, Cam Zurhaar, Tom Lynch and Elliott Himmelberg.

As the table above illustrates, Petracca and Sparrow are both spending less time in the centre and more up forward to help accommodate Brayshaw.

It's also no coincidence that vandenBerg returned in round 10 from cheekbone surgery.

He was playing up forward earlier in the season, but is now one of the in-form Demons' two chief wingmen, along with Langdon.

THE FULL INJURY LIST Who is racing the clock?

Jones, who returned to the senior side in round eight, is chewing up the remaining wing time.

Brayshaw's racked up 52 disposals across the past two games, and kicked a goal in each, to be among Melbourne's top contributors.

It might seem obvious why he's again looking like his 2018 self, but Goodwin will tell you this was no easy fix. There's also no guarantee the coach is finished tinkering.

Angus Brayshaw since 2018 *

Statistics

Under 70% inside midfield

Over 70% inside midfield

Matches

23

32

AFL rating points

10.1

13.7

Centre-bounce attendances

8.3

18.8

Disposals

21.2

25.0

Metres gained

352

433

Contested possessions

7.9

11.0

Uncontested possessions

13.7

14.7

Clearances

2.3

4.4

Centre clearances

0.8

2.1

Score involvements

4.2

5.8

Pressure points

37.2

47.5

Tackles

3.3

5.1

* 2020 numbers receive 25 per cent scaling 

"Angus has had a little bit more time in recent weeks, but, to Angus' credit, he got his game back on track himself. He's been really strong defensively for us and an important player in that aspect of the game," Goodwin said on Friday.

"But his ability to win the footy and really hunt contest areas has much improved, and he's in some really good form, but ongoing it's going to be a consistent way of sharing the load through there."