Melbourne’s new-found strength in depth will be on display on Sunday against Brisbane, with coach Paul Roos hailing the AFL club’s competitiveness from top to bottom.
Personifying that is Alex Neal-Bullen, who will play his first senior match for the year after breaking the door down to selection in the VFL.
Last Saturday, Neal-Bullen was best afield for Casey with 39 disposals and a goal.
This weekend, he’ll be lacing up at the MCG in place of Christian Salem.
Roos said he couldn’t overlook the 20-year-old’s performances in a strong VFL side which also included senior players Chris Dawes, Lynden Dunn, Sam Frost and Jack Trengove.
“It’s an indication on where we’re at as a club now. There’s a lot more depth. There’s a lot more pressure on players,” he said.
“Christian’s been playing OK this year, playing some reasonable footy … but you can’t ignore the performances (Neal-Bullen) has been putting in.
“We haven’t had a lot of changes this year but some of the guys it’s just been one poor performance.
“There’s more pressure now. That’s the message.”
Roos said Dean Kent was also likely to return to the senior side after a one-week spell with a back injury.
Concussed pair Angus Brayshaw and Heritier Lumumba remain sidelined at different phases of their recovery.
Brayshaw’s issue is largely conditioning; with just 10 minutes of football in the last month, he has been handed a four-week recovery timeframe to come up to speed.
But Lumumba, a premiership-winner with Collingwood, is still yet to have medical clearance to return to football after a knock.
Melbourne are wary of the Lions, with a terrible record as favourites under Roos.
The retiring coach also believes Justin Leppitsch’s side are performing well above their win-loss of 1-7, calling their early-season draw “reasonably unfair”.
“The commentary before the season was that Brisbane could be 2-8 and playing some really good footy,” he said.
“Up until (last week’s 78-point loss to Collingwood) that was the case. I thought they’d played some really good footy and been horribly unlucky.”