Melbourne coach delivers verdict on ‘typical’ Clayton Oliver after return game

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin expects Clayton Oliver back to his best in the near future after the troubled midfielder’s positive return to action in the AFL season-opening defeat to Sydney.

The Demons’ midfield was comprehensively beaten in the contest after halftime in an area of the game Goodwin conceded was crucial in his side’s 22-point loss on Thursday night.

But Oliver’s performance – which included tallies of 29 disposals, six clearances and five score involvements – was cause for optimism after his turbulent off-season.

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“It was a typical Clayton game. He was pretty tough around the clinches in the contest,” Goodwin said.

“He’s still got some work to do and probably fumbled the ball a little bit at times but he’ll just evolve and get better in the next few weeks.

“It’s just great to see him happy, healthy and back in the program, and we’ll get him back to his best pretty quick.”

Oliver was hospitalised after a medical episode last October and left a pre-season camp early for personal reasons in December, spending several weeks training away from his teammates.

Goodwin had serious concerns over summer about whether the prolific ball-winner would get back in time for the start of the season.

“There was no guarantees throughout the summer but he’s done everything right over the last six to eight weeks to put himself in this position,” Goodwin said.

“We’re happy that he’s in a great space – he’s healthy, he’s happy – and he’s contributing well to our footy club. That’s all we can ask of him.”

Despite Oliver’s solid performance, the Demons were left licking their wounds after the 12.14 (86) to 9.10 (64) defeat to Sydney and lost defender Jake Bowey to a suspected collarbone injury.

Bowey extended his right arm before colliding with Swans forward Justin McInerney in a third-quarter marking contest and played no further part in the game.

Jake Bowey went down in the third quarter. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

The injury came just minutes after Goodwin had made a tactical substitution, leaving the Demons one man short on the bench.

Bowey will have scans and is expected to miss at least next week’s clash with the Western Bulldogs, joining Lachie Hunter (calf), Shane McAdam (hamstring) and Harrison Petty (toe) on the sidelines.

“He’s obviously disappointed but he’s in high spirits,” Goodwin said.

“You know, if it’s a collarbone, sometimes those things can get looked after pretty quickly and get him back.

“He’s obviously down in terms of his spirits, but he’s certainly optimistic about it only missing a short amount of time.”

In a boost for Melbourne, livewire Kysaiah Pickett is available to return against the Bulldogs after serving a one-match ban for his high bump on Carlton captain Patrick Cripps during last year’s finals series.

Goodwin said Tom McDonald, Ben Brown and Tom Fullarton are all possible inclusions in the forward line after the Demons managed just nine goals against Sydney.

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