Carlton clashed with Melbourne in the final pre-season clash for the two sides ahead of their Opening Round fixtures. (Image: Brandon Patane - The Inner Sanctum)

It was a dominant display from Melbourne captain Max Gawn, as his Demons stormed to a 38-point victory over Carlton at IKON Park on Wednesday.

The ruckman pulled together another trademark game which we’ve come to know him for, finishing with 24 disposals, 30 hitouts, five marks, and two goals. It was more than enough for him to ensure a victory for the Demons, and has likely locked him into SuperCoach and Fantasy teams all over the country with a showcase of some of the brilliant form we’ve seen in the past.

Melbourne assistant coach Andrew McQualter was happy with the side’s performance overall, speaking post-game about the improvements they have made and will continue to make leading into Opening Round.

“It was a pleasing performance, much better than last week,” he said.

“We needed to ramp up our defence and our contest, and we were able to do that tonight, so that was great.

“We had some great passages of play tonight… any time you score 100 points it’s a good result, against a quality defence like Carlton as well.

“I’m sure there’s lots of it that we’ll keep getting better at as the year goes [on].”

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While the Demons started the game in dominant fashion, it was a much more even game heading into the second half with goals flying at either end.

Carlton fought hard, but Melbourne kept them at arms length thanks to goals from the likes of new recruit Jack Billings and young draftee Caleb Windsor, who put in a very solid performance.

With 11 disposals and two goals, Windsor has certainly made a case for selection in the Opening Round, and assistant coach McQualter was full of praise for the rookie.

“He’s really given himself every chance [to play next week],” McQualter said.

“He’s had a terrific pre-season, he’s trained really hard, he’s a young kid, [and] he’s got lots of his game that he’ll still get better at, but he’s given himself a real look at it.

“He’s also got a really strong defensive side of his game that is a big focus for him as well, so he’ll be trying to balance that out all year I’m sure.”

Another star who drew attention to himself with an excellent performance, defender Christian Salem spent extended periods in the midfield throughout the night and impressed greatly with 23 disposals and nine tackles to his name.

“He’s a pretty good player, so I think anywhere you put him he’s gonna be a good player,” he said.

“Clearly we’re gonna have to get a little bit creative with our midfield, [but] he’s played there tonight and he was really good for us.”

One player the Demons would love to have back in that midfield as soon as possible, McQualter gave another update on how star midfielder Clayton Oliver is tracking ahead of Opening Round.

“He’ll definitely play footy next weekend,” McQualter said.

“He’s in a great spot at the moment… I’m not sure whether he plays [in the Opening Round], I’d love to know it as much as you.

“At the moment our biggest focus for him is setting him up for a great year.

“It’s a long year ahead and he’s in a terrific spot at the moment.”

Melbourne will kick off the 2024 AFL season when they take on Sydney at the SCG next Thursday, March 7

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