Tom McDonald celebrates a goal in Melbourne's match against West Coast in R4, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE key forward Ben Brown will have a back issue assessed this week before the Demons decide if he can slot straight back into a forward line that includes Tom McDonald and young gun Jacob van Rooyen.

Coach Simon Goodwin was pleased with McDonald's return to form on Sunday night, with the 30-year-old kicking a game-high four goals in the Demons' clinical 63-point win against West Coast at Optus Stadium.

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McDonald had been axed in round three, allowing van Rooyen to debut, with Goodwin comfortable having a "squad mentality" for the key forward positions once all three are available.

"I was rapt for Tom. He wasn't in the best of form in the first couple of weeks and we sent him back to the VFL where he actually played a really dominant game at VFL level and then he's come in today and done the same thing for us," Goodwin said.

"I think that says a lot about Tom and it says a lot about our culture that we've got a group of hungry individuals that are prepared to go back and work on their game and then come in and play some really strong AFL footy.


"You saw today he was pretty dominant in the air when he got his chances, and that's what we're looking for. It's a competitive team to be involved in and Tommy's gone back and proven why he wants to be an AFL player."

Brown booted nine goals across the opening three rounds, including two bags of four, before missing the match against the Eagles due to back soreness.

Van Rooyen, meanwhile, was excellent on debut with three goals against Sydney last week and backed up with two goals and seven hit-outs as an occassional back-up ruckman against the Eagles.

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"It's competitive, but we sort of take a bit of a squad mentality with some of this stuff as well," Goodwin said.

"We've got really competitive spots in our team and one of those is our key forward position, so we'll have to have a good think about how that looks for next week."

Goodwin was not concerned by an ankle tweak for star defender Jake Lever, who was able to play on after getting some attention on the bench, but backman Michael Hibberd will need to be assessed this week after Achilles soreness flared.


The coach was full of praise for ruck recruit Brodie Grundy, who played his best game for the club, shining as the No.1 ruckman in the absence of injured captain Max Gawn.

"I thought he was pretty special for us today," Goodwin said, with Grundy amassing 22 disposals, 33 hit-outs and seven clearances.

"He's added a lot. He's not just a great person on the field. He's a great teammate off the field as well. He loves the game and he thinks about it differently.

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"And since Max has been out of the team, he's just growing in his ability to own that lead ruck and really start to play the game a little bit differently for us.

"We've managed our group around that and Brodie's just picked it up."

While West Coast was comfortably beaten after making seven changes to cover injuries, coach Adam Simpson said the club would take positives from the spirited performance.


Simpson said the lessons learned by the club's young midfielders – including prized draftee Reuben Ginbey, who spent a lot of time opposed to star onballer Clayton Oliver – would be valuable.

"We were disappointed we didn't fight it out for the whole game, but we'll look at the good stuff and leverage off that," Simpson said.

"What's today worth, four or five WAFL games? No disrespect to the WAFL, but Reuben is learning a lot on the fly at the moment."

Simpson said the Eagles would be careful not to "break" their young players through over-exposure early in their careers, with Ginbey carrying a significant load in the midfield after just four games.


"We've got to keep an eye on that," the coach said.

"It's great having someone like Tim Kelly around, and when Dom (Sheed) is around and Luke (Shuey) is around it really complements what we're trying to chase.

"When they're on their own, there's going to be some challenges, so we'll manage it the best we can ... there's going to be some ups and downs with the kids. They've had one pre-season, so we've got to be a little bit patient."