Melbourne superstar Christian Petracca feared Clayton Oliver would be lost to the club

Melbourne superstar Christian Petracca has admitted he feared teammate Clayton Oliver would be lost to the club after his tumultuous off-season.

Oliver had been absent from the club for an extended period of the summer while dealing with a host of personal issues that date as far back as last year.

The 26-year-old had an injury-riddled season in 2023 but played below his best even when fit, with repeated questions over his lack of professionalism and poor off-field behaviour levelled at him.

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He was then the subject of intense trade speculation at the end of the season before he and the club re-committed to his monster seven-year contract.

But that was the least of his worries throughout a turbulent off-season, which spiraled out of control when he spent time in hospital following a seizure that resulted in a head injury.

Oliver later left Melbourne’s pre-season camp early to deal with personal issues, and withdrew completely from the program weeks later for the same reason.

Oliver in action against Sydney in the Opening Round. Credit: Getty Images

He re-joined the club in late January and remarkably did enough to earn a spot in the club’s Opening Round clash against Sydney.

But there was a time when Petracca thought that wasn’t going to be the case.

When asked by Channel 7’s Tim Watson if he thought Oliver would be lost to the Demons, Petracca said on SEN: “I’m not going to lie, yeah I think so.

“I think as a close friend you worry about those things and you worry about the situation that you can sometimes put yourself in.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learnt over the past four or five weeks is that we’re all human beings and we all make mistakes and we all stuff up, whether it’s big or small. People have just got stuff going on in their lives.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learnt as a friend and as a teammate is the power of forgiveness. We just need to forgive.

“We understand that he’s got some stuff going on. We also need to lean into what he’s going through and just be there for him, and him being more vulnerable with each other and talking to us (about) what’s going on.

“I think he’s doing an incredible job with that. He’s coming in each day with a really open mindset, he looks really healthy and happy.

“The best version of Clayton isn’t just the player he is on the football field, he’s just a great person off it and I think I’m starting to see that again over the last six or seven weeks.”

Oliver appeared rusty at times throughout the 22-point loss to Sydney last Thursday night, but still managed to rack up 30 possessions and six clearances from 82 per cent game time.

“It was great to have him back. I thought his intensity around the footy was great. Obviously he’s going to be a little bit rusty but he’s done a mountain of work over the last nine or 10 weeks to get himself back in this position.

“Now it’s just got to be a consistent thing. He seems really healthy, he looks healthy which is the most positive thing.

“He’s got himself into a really good routine, some great habits, I think he’s surrounding himself around really good people from the footy club, which is great.”

Melbourne will look to bounce back from last week’s loss when they host the Western Bulldogs on Sunday.

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