MELBOURNE spearhead Ben Brown has withdrawn from the Demons' clash with Essendon just hours before the first bounce under the AFL's health and safety protocols.

Premiership forward Brown, the Demons' leading goalkicker this year with five majors in two games, was ruled out on Friday afternoon.

Fringe forward Sam Weideman replaces Brown in the Demons' 22 for Friday night's game against the winless Bombers at the MCG.

Sam Weideman at Demons training on September 20, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

The late call-up will mark former first-round draft pick Weideman's 50th AFL game and first appearance of the season.

The 24-year-old has kicked 49 goals in as many appearances since his 2016 debut but played just five games last year with Brown and Tom McDonald preferred as tall forwards.

The Demons added former Bombers player Mitch Brown to their emergencies list.

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Melbourne is aiming to maintain its unblemished start to its premiership defence while Essendon is without Zach Merrett and Nik Cox.

Dylan Shiel and Nic Martin return along with Andrew Phillips while Tex Wanganeen will start his first AFL game, with Devon Smith and Aaron Francis dropped.