Axed Jones still has role to play: Demons

Jason Phelan
Nathan Jones has been dropped, but is still wanted by the Demons

Melbourne maintain former skipper Nathan Jones still has a role to play at senior level this season despite his dumping from the side to face Essendon.

Jones' omission and the ankle injury suffered by Bombers skipper Dyson Heppell on Friday were major talking points ahead of Sunday's encounter at the MCG.

Jones departed the side that barely held off Carlton in round two, along with No.3 draft pick Luke Jackson - who was dropped after making his AFL debut, as well as 75-gamer Alex Neal-Bullen.

The 32-year-old was omitted according to the AFL's official team announcement, but the Demons tried to give themselves a bit of wiggle room when it came to their decision to leave out the three-time best-and-fairest winner.

"Nathan has been dealing with some little niggles over the past three or four weeks that have prevented him from being able to physically attack training," Melbourne football boss Josh Mahoney said.

"So we want him to take this opportunity to get his body back to 100 per cent.

"We still see Jonesy as being a crucial part of our team this season and we look forward to seeing him back at his best."

Jones, who missed round one with an Achilles injury, had 11 touches in the one-point win over the Blues.

The club stalwart played all 22 games in 2019, but was made to wait until after Melbourne's horror five-win season was over before earning a new contract.

Kysaiah Pickett returns after serving a one-week ban for breaking COVID-19 protocols, with Mitch Hannan and Aaron vandenBerg also included.

VandenBerg's last senior appearance was in Melbourne's preliminary final thumping at the hands of West Coast in 2018, with the 28-year-old beset by foot issues since.

For the Bombers, Heppell is in danger of missing the rest of the season after fracturing his left ankle in a training mishap.

The club is unable to put an estimate on when the star midfielder will return until after he has surgery.

The setback continued a tough run for Heppell, who missed round one after undergoing two off-season surgeries to alleviate the pain of a nagging foot injury.

Irishman Conor McKenna was included in the final 22 for his first game of the season, along with 21-year-old Brayden Ham, while Matt Guelfi was dropped.