17/04/2024
Toby Bedford

Toby Bedford over the pre-season. Photo: Melbourne FC

Toby Bedford couldn't crack the Demons' premiership side six months ago, but he made his opportunity count on Wednesday night.

Melbourne has proved its squad runs deep in Round 1 with a host of players that missed out on the premiership team impressing against the Western Bulldogs.

It was a next man up mentality in defence, with Grand Final heroes Jake Lever, Harrison Petty and Trent Rivers missing. Joel Smith was stout in his key position role, and late inclusion Adam Tomlinson proved his quality after a rapid recovery from his mid-2021 season ACL tear.

There are already issues for the Hawks, Swans and Eagles with Covid-19 protocols ruling players out of Round 1 action, so squad depth will be vital across 2022 to combat untimely outs.

Simon Goodwin was quick to point out the need for depth as health and safety protocols headline the preparations for some clubs ahead of Round 1.

“Depth’s really important,” he said post-game.

“We’ve got a lot of players at the moment that are working incredibly hard to get their game up to the level to get selected.

“Opportunities are going to keep presenting themselves. We’ve seen a lot of opportunities down back, and we’re going to get them in other areas as well.”

It wasn’t just the backline that saw new faces, with Toby Bedford delighting in his three quarters of action to claim his first win at AFL level.

The speedy forward was brought into the game from his starting place as the medical sub due to Christian Salem’s withdrawal at quarter time with a knee issue.

He collected nine disposals at 78 per cent efficiency as he connected the midfield and forward line with gut running. His work rate opened up channels for his teammates and helped the ball move directly into the Demons’ forward line.

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Bedford was often unrewarded for his efforts with the ball swinging to the other side of the ground, but he played a magnificent team role and his coach was taking notice.

“It’s incredibly hard to get into the team,” Goodwin said.

“I’m really proud of what [Toby’s] been able to deliver. He’s got Charlie Spargo, Kozzy Pickett, Alex Neal-Bullen [ahead of him], he gets his opportunity tonight and we’ve got a really encouraging player there that we can move forward with.

“I was really happy for Toby because I know how hard he’s worked to get that spot in the team, but also that opportunity and he took it with both hands.”

Salem will get scans on his knee after being subbed out, while Lever was a late withdrawal after tearing his plantar fascia.

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