Max Gawn celebrates Melbourne's win over Brisbane in R18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

HIGH-PROFILE Melbourne recruit Brodie Grundy is set for a stint in the VFL playing a pure forward role as the Demons look to develop his craft inside 50 ahead of a return to the senior side later in the season.

Grundy has played a high percentage of his career as a pure ruckman, but Demons coach Simon Goodwin says the former Magpie's new combination with skipper Max Gawn means he is required to spend a decent portion of the game in attack.

DEMONS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats

The 29-year-old was dropped ahead of Melbourne's last-gasp one-point win over Brisbane on Friday night and he has been asked to work on his forward craft in the VFL, starting with a practice game this weekend.

Gawn was one of Melbourne's best against the Lions in his first game this year without Grundy by his side, but Goodwin maintains the pair can work together in the same team.

"I thought Max was sensational, first and foremost," Goodwin said on Friday night.

"He's our skipper and we put a lot of responsibility on him to lead our ruck against a high-quality opponent (Brisbane's Oscar McInerney) and I thought he performed sensationally.


"We speak about Brodie and Max as the combination, and I want to go on the record here and say we love their ruck combination. But one thing we're not going to do as a footy club is leave one stone unturned in getting better, and we want more impact forward of the ball.

"The only way we're going to continue to do that is to expose them for longer. So part of the plan for Brodie is to expose him at VFL footy. We've got a practice game tomorrow (Saturday) against St Kilda where he'll play purely as a forward, and we'll continue to assess it like that.

"We think we can turn that combination into a threat moving forward, and we're going to work to do it. And it doesn't have to be at AFL level. We're still really confident that'll work, and as we get closer to the back-end of the year, we'll need both of them back up and going.


"Ability to connect and work with forward line, with each other, ability to hit the scoreboard, ability to compete aerially, and we need both Brodie and Max to be able to do that. We're still really optimistic moving forward, but we need to give it more exposure, and the way we're going to do that is through the VFL."

Goodwin was relieved his side had managed to come from behind to take the win over the Lions in the see-sawing affair, which saw both teams jump out to leads of at least 25 points at various stages.

"I think it just shows the character and fight of our footy team. For large parts of that game, especially through the second and third quarter, you could well and truly tell Brisbane was on top," Goodwin said.


"They're a quality team, it was three v four, and you could see that. They had big momentum in the game, but for our guys to just stay present, stay in the now and adjust and work their way back, and with seven minutes to go, we were still 24 points down, to get a win, it's incredible."

Goodwin confirmed defender Harrison Petty is still dealing with a rib injury suffered last week and said needed further investigation, joking that he couldn't continue to be subbed out every week.

A circumspect Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said the margin reflected the game, with Melbourne coming out a fraction ahead in its periods of dominance.


"I'd pretty much sum the game up on contested possession. In the first and last quarters, Melbourne were plus-21 on contested possession, and win by a total of 39 points, and in between, we're plus-two and we win those quarters by 38 points," Fagan said.

"So the margin is a point. But we knew tonight contested possession was going to be critical in terms of getting territory. At the end of the day, they did that part of the game better than we did. Gawn was enormous for them, in particular. But ... we had enough inside 50s, we butchered some opportunities in the last quarter, I think.

"But if I was to lay the blame in one area, it would be in the contest. They were better than us tonight, and they got up and won by a point."

The slow-starting Lions allowed the Dees to jump to a 25-0 lead before gradually hauling their way back into the game.


"It's hard to cop because we did a lot right. But at the end of the day, I'd still say we didn't deserve to win, necessarily. But we'll take learnings from it, we'll go and look at the last five minutes and how we handled that, that'll be one of the things we look at," Fagan said.

"We'll look at the start to see why we started so poorly, but at the same time, I've got to remember that Melbourne's a good footy side and when you play them here, you've got to do a lot of things right to win, as we discovered tonight.

"Just got to work out a way to keep it all in perspective, take the positives and take the learnings as well."