MELBOURNE key forward Ben Brown is expected to be available for next Thursday night's clash against Port Adelaide after missing the win over Essendon due to health and safety protocols, creating selection headaches for the reigning premiers.
The Demons turned to Sam Weideman for the first time since round 13 last year and the 2015 No.9 pick delivered the best performance of his career after being included in the 22 as a late inclusion on Friday.
The 24-year-old booted a career-high 4.3 from seven marks and 11 possessions, calmly slotting set shots from the deep in the pocket and from point blank range in a game that breathes life into Weideman's career.
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After watching on from afar as Melbourne ended a 57-year premiership drought at Optus Stadium last September, Weideman chose not to explore greater opportunity elsewhere, signing a two-year extension days out from the Grand Final, despite playing only five games in 2021.
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin praised Weideman's attitude during a difficult period in his career and said Friday night's effort was just reward for his perseverance.
"He has handled it incredibly well and 'Weed' has been incredibly open and honest with himself on what he needs to improve in his game. He just went to work at training through the summer. He's been ready to go for a while and the opportunity presented tonight," Goodwin said after the 29-point win.
"I think you saw Sam at his best. He had seven shots at goal; he looked really dominant in the air and gave us a great focal point without Browny.
"I'm really proud of him. He's worked incredibly hard to get this opportunity and he came out and delivered tonight."
Now the focus will shift to whether Melbourne can fit Weideman in the same forward line as premiership stars Tom McDonald and Brown for the trip to South Australia.
When the Demons announced Brown would miss the game against Essendon on Friday, it was thought the former North Melbourne spearhead would also miss the clash against the winless Power, given the six-day turnaround.
But the club has revealed Brown entered health and safety protocols as a close contact on Thursday – not on Friday – meaning he will be available for selection in round four.
"That’s the discussion for match committee," Goodwin said.
"Clearly Sam's putting enormous pressure in terms of selection which is healthy. We've got a range of guys whether it be Sam Weideman who is really developing, whether it be Jake Melksham, Luke Dunstan, Toby Bedford, there's a lot of guys that are pushing hard for selection.
"You can develop at VFL footy and you can come back a better player. I think we saw that tonight."
Goodwin dismissed any concerns regarding the fitness of superstar midfielder Christian Petracca, who didn’t appear to cover the ground as freely as he has across the first fortnight of 2022.
After amassing 38 disposals against the Western Bulldogs in round one and a career-high 40 against Gold Coast last weekend, the Norm Smith Medallist finished with 21 disposals and a goal on a rare off night by his extraordinary standards.
"No issues with 'Trac'. He might have a bit of a quieter night with possession, but he certainty had a big impact for the team," he said.
"We were able to manipulate a few things with him and get an advantage in certain areas of the ground. His selfless role for the team was outstanding. He's fully fit and he'll be back to his best."
Melbourne has now won its past 10 games.
Despite starting the season with three straight losses for only the second time in club history, Essendon coach Ben Rutten remains upbeat given the quality of opposition the Bombers have faced, with the loss to Melbourne following defeats at the hands of Brisbane and Geelong.
"The last three weeks haven't been great, blistering performances but I think it's given us a really nice template for the rest of the season," Rutten said.
"To be able to play three top-four teams from last year at the start of the season is a good test and now we've got time to work on it."
Essendon faces Adelaide and Fremantle over the next two rounds, both clashes to be played at Marvel Stadium.