Simon Goodwin's revelation about Clayton Oliver in admission about Demons AFL slump

The Demons midfielder made a positive start to the new season after his off-field problems.

Melbourne Demons coach Simon Goodwin has offered a telling new insight into the progress of Clayton Oliver, following numerous off-field problems that saw his future at the AFL club thrown into question. Teammate Christian Petracca admitted this week he thought Oliver would leave the club during the off-season after Melbourne's four-time best-and-fairest winner took extended time away from the Demons to deal with his personal issues.

The 26-year-old has been battling several personal and mental health problems but has improved "significantly", according to the Melbourne coach. It got to the point during a tumultuous 2023 where Demons captain Max Gawn invited Oliver to live in his family home - at a time when Gawn's wife Jessica was heavily pregnant. Oliver also spent time away from the side in December and January to get himself right.

Pictured left to right, Melbourne Demons coach Simon Goodwin and star player Clayton Oliver.
Melbourne Demons coach Simon Goodwin says Clayton Oliver is in a 'significantly' better place now than he was during the 2023 AFL season. Pic: Getty

But Oliver returned to the club in a good head space and did well to return to match fitness in time to feature in Melbourne's opening round defeat to Sydney. The gun midfielder showed encouraging signs for the start of the new season and Goodwin believes Oliver has really turned his life around after his well documented struggles in 2023.

"You see a very healthy and happy person walking into your environment, training well, connecting with people, smiling - and they're the things we've learned to love about Clayton," Goodwin told reporters before Thursday's training. "We know we have a Clayton Oliver that we love and respect and we know is going to produce some really strong football for us. We're incredibly happy with how he's tracking."

Melbourne crashed out of last year's AFL finals in straight-sets for the second year in a row after finishing in the top four. And their loss against Sydney in round one makes it three defeats in their last three games, but Goodwin is confident Oliver and his men can turn their form slump around.

Demons need wins to silence Clayton Oliver questions

Goodwin says while he's rapt with the progress Oliver has made, he wishes there were less questions about the 26-year-old from the media and more about his footy side. The Demons coach knows that will only happen when the team starts winning again.

"We've certainly worked hard on our unity piece and making sure we're really clear about what we're expecting in our environment," Goodwin added. "Clayton's done everything he can to be a part of that.

"I'm not disappointed - I'm not surprised, though, that it's still going. In the end, it's been a big topic of conversation and in the end, until we start getting some results, it's going to continue to be a topic."

Pictured here are Melbourne AFL teammates Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver.
Christian Petracca says he thought Clayton Oliver would leave the Melbourne Demons during a turbulent AFL off-season. Image: Getty

Demons buoyed by Clayton Oliver's start to new season

Despite an interrupted pre-season, Oliver was solid on his AFL return, managing 30 possessions and six clearances in the 22-point loss to the Swans. Petracca was impressed with the 26-year-old's performance and said his return has provided a massive boost to the squad. Goodwin agrees and says his star midfielder will only get better the more games he plays.

"He (Oliver) had his possessions, no doubt about that, and he got better as the game went on," the Demons coach said. "Clearly, his strengths - we still want to see more of what he brings to the contest and how he gets out of contest.

"That's a big part of his game. But first game back, we can't ask for much more - he delivered on everything he'd been working towards. He's just going to grow and get better."


The Demons welcome back exciting utility Kozzy Pickett from suspension for Sunday's match against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG. And Goodwin is confident the 22-year-old's ability will add another dimension to his side against the Bulldogs.

"It's going to be great - geez, we missed him," Goodwin said. "He's a pretty good player, Kos - to get him back in the front of the ground, where he has his biggest impact, but also around stoppage and centre bounce. We saw through the pre-season, he's evolving into a pretty damaging stoppage player."

with AAP