BEN BROWN is still annoyed with himself. The Demons spearhead had never been suspended until a moment of madness in the VFL last month tarnished his unblemished record, making a frustrating start to 2022 even more infuriating. 

The 29-year-old missed rounds three and four after entering health and safety protocols – Brown exited isolation on the morning of the clash against Port Adelaide but was too far away from Adelaide Oval – then found himself playing for Casey in Williamstown two nights later.

And it was there, under lights at Point Gellibrand, where Brown's season hit another roadblock when he copped a two-game suspension for striking Williamstown's Max Philpot with his elbow off the ball.

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WATCH: Big Ben banned for striking in the VFL

Ben Brown has been suspended following this incident in the VFL

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The uncharacteristic action by the usually gentle Tasmanian was reduced to a one-game ban but it meant three games out of Simon Goodwin's side, just when he was looking to cash in on a full pre-season, after a slow start to 2021 limited him to just three games in the first 16 rounds and 13 in total, including the one that mattered most.  

After returning to face Richmond on Anzac Day Eve last weekend, Brown starred against Hawthorn on Saturday night, kicking four goals – his equal-most for the Demons – to give his 2022 a kickstart. 

"It was a bit unfortunate. I apologised to the young fella I hit straight away because I definitely didn’t mean to hit him in the chin, but I did," Brown told AFL.com.au after the 10-point win on Saturday night. 

"Sometimes you've just got to cop it on the chin when you do something wrong. I was just running back to goal and tried to hit him in the chest and missed. I don’t try to make a habit of running around hitting blokes. 

"Until then I'd had a clean record, so I'm a bit annoyed I gave that up. Hopefully I go the rest of my career without doing that again. That would be ideal."

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Brown catches fire with two in a hot minute

Ben Brown kicked back-to-back goals to further extend his side's lead late in the second term

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Five Demons earned All-Australian selection in 2021, but none are forwards. Max Gawn, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver are the engine behind Melbourne's rise, while the club was rewarded for making the bold decision to poach star key defenders Steven May and Jake Lever in consecutive years. 

The forward line continues to be the big talking point when it comes to the reigning premiers. All three key forwards – Tom McDonald, Sam Weideman and Brown – have spent time at Casey across the first seven rounds. The match committee is yet to settle on the two they like the most – all three played against the Hawks – with Weideman's form creating a good kind of headache for Goodwin.

"For us keys we know the pressure is on for spots, so it's on us to put our hand up every week to play the best footy we can to stay in the team," Brown said.

"As far as our forward mix went, I thought we worked pretty well together. In the end we were able to push that lead out. We were able to hold on towards the end. I think a couple of years ago, this club would have given that lead up. The level of comfort in our game style, everyone knows what we need to do."

Five players were ruled out of Saturday's clash after entering health and safety protocols – Luke Jackson, Kysaiah Pickett, Harrison Petty, Alex Neal-Bullen and Tom Sparrow – as well as Goodwin, who handed the reins to assistant coach Adem Yze. 

Ben Brown celebrates a goal against Hawthorn in round seven on April 30, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Brown said the Demons handled the disruption and the threat of a widespread breakout professionally, with Toby Bedford grasping his opportunity to show he can play a role when needed after being the unused medi-sub for the previous five weeks.

"I think there has been an element of inevitability looking around the league with the COVID situation. I had it three weeks ago and I felt I was fortunate I didn’t pass it on to anyone else within the club. We've had a few guys go down who live with each other. That makes it difficult to avoid," he said.

"The way we went about the week, there was an element of risk minimisation around the time we spend together, but the way we ran training, everything was about this weekend and getting better. 

"I think it gave an opportunity to a few guys who have been craving that opportunity. It really showed today how deep we bat. There are some great stories of guys who have been toiling away in the VFL who came in and played a role for us on game day. I'm really proud of the way we went about it as a group."

Melbourne hasn't lost a game since July last year, peeling off 14 wins in succession to move within touching distance of the longest winning streaks of the modern era. Essendon (2000) and Brisbane (2001-02) won 20 games in a row at the start of this century, before St Kilda banked the first 19 games of 2009. 

Melbourne celebrates its win over Hawthorn in round seven on April 30, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Brown said the Demons haven’t spoken about the winning streak inside the football club, but it will definitely become a bigger talking point the closer Melbourne gets to 20.

"We don't really talk about it internally. I think it's more about the type of game we want to play. Anyone can come in and play their role for the team, and if they can do that, it will go a long way towards winning games," he said.

"I think we're all enjoying playing footy, which is another part of it. You can see that in the guys that come in; everyone wants to be part of a team that’s going well. We know there are going to be speedbumps along the way; we know that’s going to come."