MELBOURNE will continue its premiership defence on Saturday night with an almost entirely unrecognisable backline, as the Demons' extraordinary depth continues to be put to an immediate test this season.

The reigning premier will likely be without five of its back seven from last year's Grand Final side, with Tom McDonald a strong chance to again feature in his former position as a key defender.

McDonald was used predominantly as a forward throughout the side's successful 2021 campaign, but was forced back into a defensive role in Wednesday night's season-opener after Jake Lever was withdrawn from the team with a foot issue.

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Lever tore his plantar fascia eight days ago but was still named in the side for the clash against the Western Bulldogs, only to be withdrawn 60 minutes before the first bounce due to soreness.

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With a 10-day break leading into the club's round two clash against Gold Coast next Saturday night, Lever remains a chance to make the trip to Queensland but McDonald will be on standby to again play in a defensive post if he is deemed unavailable.

Melbourne's defensive conundrum was further compounded by a knee injury sustained to Christian Salem in the first quarter of last Wednesday night's match, forcing him to be substituted out of the game by quarter time.

Salem didn't suffer any major ligament damage as a result of the blow, but still underwent a minor procedure last Friday to repair chipped cartilage and is expected to miss a number of weeks.

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Harrison Petty is still recovering from calf surgery he underwent in February, Trent Rivers is likely to miss at least another week as he battles a PCL strain, while Michael Hibberd tweaked his calf last week and is also expected to be unavailable.

It means the Demons could be without five premiership defenders for their trip to Metricon Stadium to face the Suns, leaving McDonald and Adam Tomlinson – who played his first game in almost a year last week following an ACL injury – as key defensive options.

Joel Smith was solid on his return to the team against the Bulldogs, while running defender Jayden Hunt was also named alongside Steven May and youngster Jake Bowey – the only two remaining members of the Grand Final backline – in the Demons' side.

Angus Brayshaw continued in his new role across half-back following an impressive summer in the position, drawing the praises of coach Simon Goodwin for his performance after last Wednesday night's win.

B: Michael Hibberd, Steven May, Jake Lever
HB: Trent Rivers, Harrison Petty, Christian Salem
I/C: Jake Bowey

Joel Smith, Steven May, Adam Tomlinson
Jake Bowey, Tom McDonald, Angus Brayshaw
Jayden Hunt

UNAVAILABLE: Jake Lever (foot), Michael Hibberd (calf), Trent Rivers (knee), Harrison Petty (calf), Christian Salem (knee)