A FORTNIGHT on the sidelines has primed Melbourne forward Ben Brown for a big finish to the AFL season as he prepares to return in Friday night’s blockbuster clash with Collingwood.
Brown, who has battled knee issues in recent years, sat out the last two games in an attempt to overcome lingering soreness and has trained strongly this week.
James Harmes (concussion) has also been given the green light to return against the Magpies at the MCG, where second meets third in a contest that will help shape both sides’ top-four prospects.
Sam Weideman is likely to make way for Brown, with coach Simon Goodwin bullish about the 29-year-old spearhead’s prospects of having an impact at the business end of the season.
Brown’s strong finish last year was crucial in the Demons’ premiership success, and the tall target has kicked 23 goals in 14 games this season.
“He’s an important player for us,” Goodwin told reporters on Thursday.
“You saw what he was able to do at the back end of last year, and his form was really trending (upwards) before he went out of the team with his knee (injury).
“He gives us a real focal point, he’s a really smart player, he’s a goalkicker, and he maximises his opportunities.
“He said this is the best he’s felt in probably 12 to 14 weeks, so it was a great opportunity to give him some rest and get him some treatment on that knee, and then just to re-load it a bit in the right way.
“He’s feeling 100 per cent, and he trained incredibly well the other day.”
Weideman, who has played 10 games this season, kicked three goals in Melbourne’s recent loss to the Western Bulldogs but had just one kick and one mark – plus one goal – in a quiet display in last week’s big win over Fremantle.
“Obviously, last week wasn’t the game he was looking for, but he’s more than possessions and marks and goals,” Goodwin said.
“He competed incredibly strongly for us, and he’s got a process in place about how he takes his game to the next level.”
Collingwood has surged into the top four on the back of a 10-match winning streak, including a 26-point victory over Melbourne in Round 13.
Their form has set up a huge Friday night clash with the Demons and Magpies sharing identical 14-5 records, one win shy of ladder leaders Geelong and just one win clear of fifth-placed Brisbane.
“Every game’s a big game, but this one no doubt has a bit of a special meaning to it,” Goodwin said.
“It’s second versus third, hopefully, 85,000-90,000 at the game, and two teams that are hopefully going to be playing some pretty big games moving forward.
“It’s a great challenge for us, they’re in enormous form, and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
(C) AAP 2022