Melbourne return to Optus Stadium for first time since 2021 grand final ahead of clash with West Coast

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Eliza ReillyThe West Australian
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Max Gawn ran freely as Melbourne made their return to Optus Stadium on Saturday.
Camera IconMax Gawn ran freely as Melbourne made their return to Optus Stadium on Saturday. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Melbourne have returned to Perth for the first time since the 2021 AFL grand final, gracing Optus Stadium and reminiscing on the day they ended a 57-year premiership drought.

Ahead of their clash with West Coast on Sunday, the Demons took the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the Burswood venue, staging a light captain’s run on Saturday morning.

Captain Max Gawn ran freely and looks set to face an understrength Eagles ruck division after overcoming a knee complaint earlier in the week.

His ruck deputy Luke Jackson relished the chance to return home after the West Aussie played a starring role in last year’s decider as he continues to weigh up his future.

Fellow home-grown heroes Trent Rivers and Kysaiah Pickett were also in attendance alongside the vast majority of Melbourne’s 2021 premiership team.

The intensity and energy was up throughout the session but senior coach Simon Goodwin said Melbourne wouldn’t let recollections get in the way of their process.

Luke Jackson during Melbourne’s Captains run on Saturday.
Camera IconLuke Jackson during Melbourne’s Captains run on Saturday. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“There’s some incredibly fond memories getting back to Perth,” he said.

“It’s a great stadium to play at and the people of Perth embraced our footy club.

“We’ll never forget that and we have a lot of supporters in Perth as well as players who grew up there.

“It doesn’t change our process. We’ve still got to come out and perform at an oval we enjoy playing at.”

Kysaiah Pickett is even deadly at training.
Camera IconKysaiah Pickett is even deadly at training. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

After warming up, Melbourne launched into a full-field ball movement drill, sending the ball from end to end.

The drill was briefly stopped by head of development Mark Williams, with the former premiership coach calling on his players to lift their skill level.

The Demons then headed inside 50 to work on their handballing skills in tight and goal kicking under pressure.

Goodwin said Melbourne were constantly searching externally for inspiration to keep improving despite their undefeated start to the season.

Coach Simon Goodwin goes for a run while joking around with his assistant coaches before training.
Camera IconCoach Simon Goodwin goes for a run while joking around with his assistant coaches before training. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

“We look at all different things, different sports, storytelling… we look at a number of different areas depending on the situation we’re in and the team we’re coming up against and the opportunities that sit within that,” he said.

“We have a bigger picture as well looking at where we want to be.

“We’ve got some challenges heading over there. We’ve still got some things we’re working on to be at our best.”

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