Jacob van Rooyen and Simon Goodwin after Melbourne's win over Richmond in R6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

JACOB van Rooyen dodged being substituted out of Melbourne's clash with Richmond to instead have a big say in the Demons' come-from-behind win on Monday night.

The young key forward had struggled for an impact in the tight clash in the opening three quarters, collecting just four disposals and one kick, before he helped changed the game with three goals in a dominant final term.

DEMONS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin revealed post-game that van Rooyen was only moments away from being substituted out of the contest before his quick-fire impact.

"We speak about it a lot, to stay present in the game and you'd say that at three-quarter time, he certainly wasn't having the best night. At one stage we were thinking about subbing him, so thank god we didn't do that and he managed to turn it around," Goodwin said.

"We've been working with Jacob about staying in the now. It might not be your moment right now, but you'll have one later on and he had a really good last quarter."


Goodwin said it was van Rooyen's big grab at the start of the final term that convinced the Dees to stick with him before they instead substituted Trent Rivers out of the game.

"He took one mark, that was enough. He was pretty much coming off at his next rotation, we were about to sub him out and he took a couple of clunks and we said, 'Keep going son, you're away now'," Goodwin said.

EIGHT THINGS WE LEARNED Dees have unearthed another livewire

In his fourth AFL game, the 20-year-old van Rooyen continued to show his forward craft, taking his tally to nine goals from his first month at the level. Goodwin said the Demons, who were without Ben Brown again due to a back injury, were working through their best forward group.

"We're still looking at various options. We wanted to have a good look at van Rooyen and (Harrison) Petty together tonight along with the rucks tonight. We're still experimenting but we're also looking for guys who impact aerially and all those guys did that tonight for us," Goodwin said.

"We'll keep looking at what our best mix is. We haven't had a lot of continuity with our talls in the early part of the year."

Goodwin said Brown is set to play VFL next week, while Charlie Spargo will miss another week with his concussion.

Richmond players leave the MCG after its loss to Melbourne in R6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Richmond was stoic in its efforts across the night and led the Demons by as much as 25 points in the second quarter, but coach Damien Hardwick said the Tigers had let themselves down in moments.

"The players will get better. Sometimes there was pressure there and other times [it was like] the players thought they were seeing ghosts. There were times we thought we'd be out but we made a fundamental flaw and that happens from time to time," he said.

"You have some players who are learning the craft, learning the game with us but it's just probably happening a little bit too much at the moment, which is a little bit disappointing."


The Tigers turned to young talls Samson Ryan and Ben Miller to shoulder the ruck load against Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy, but Hardwick said the experienced Melbourne pair got control as the game wore on and were crucial as Richmond remained with just one win from their first six games.

"They were gallant early but I thought Brodie Grundy was a difference-maker in the end. I thought he just dominated that ruck battle and we had to make a change," he said.