The AFL’s opening round has plenty of selection shake-ups but nowhere more so than Melbourne, which will field seven new players against the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Headlining the changes are great goalkicking hope Jesse Hogan and former Magpie Heritier Lumumba, who will make a milestone 200th AFL appearance in his first match in a Demons guernsey.
Joining the pair are former Giant Sam Frost, ex-Blue goalsneak Jeff Garlett and No.3 draft pick Angus Brayshaw.
Essendon will place great faith in their sidelined stars, with captain Jobe Watson leading a pack of players that will play against Sydney despite missing the NAB Challenge.
Every AFL club has at least one new face for the season-opening Easter round, though none face as daunting a task as Dayne Beams or Jack Crisp.
Beams faces his former Collingwood teammates in his first match for Brisbane, joining Allen Christensen and Mitch Robinson as players to start their new AFL journeys in round one.
The Magpies will field ex-Lion Crisp after he escaped a suspension for gambling on AFL markets this week, alongside Travis Varcoe and No.5 draft pick Jordan de Goey.
Sydney will hand a debut to academy product Isaac Heeney, while Adam Cooney will make his first Bombers start against the Swans.
There’s a Western Bulldogs debut for Tom Boyd, who comes from GWS with high expectations and a price tag to match.
Former Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen, who headed in the opposite direction as part of the Boyd deal, will debut for the Giants against St Kilda.
The Saints will give Ahmed Saad his shot at footy redemption against GWS after the forward completed his 18-month ban for a positive drugs test.
Melbourne football boss Josh Mahoney said milestone man Lumumba had made his presence felt at the Demons already.
“We would consider him to be our best player over the NAB Challenge period and we look forward to him continuing that into the season proper,” Mahoney said.
“The impact he’s had off-field to be voted into the leadership group and the passion that he shows in helping our younger players has been impressive.”
Lumumba said he was “really excited” about lining up alongside Hogan.
“He’s been spoken about a lot but from day one I’ve loved the way he’s gone about his football, he said.
“His preparation, his professionalism, his desire and competitiveness … all those things make up a good footballer.”
Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade said Ablett would be playing as a midfielder and not as a forward.
“Obviously there’s been some conjecture about Gary with his shoulder, but his training has been really strong for a long time and he’s done a lot of competitive work the last two or three weeks,” he said.