Demons take rejection in their stride

·2-min read

Melbourne have played down the importance of not being able to train on the resurfaced Optus Stadium ahead of Friday night's crunch AFL clash with Fremantle.

The stadium turf has been a big talking point after it was left a chopped up mess following three sporting fixtures in as many days last week.

Heavy rain didn't help the venue's cause, with ground staff forced to replace parts of the surface this week.

More rain is forecast for Friday, and there are concerns about how the turf will hold up.

Fremantle were granted permission to train at the venue on Tuesday so they could get used to the conditions, but Melbourne weren't allowed to train there on Thursday.

The Demons trained at the WACA Ground instead.

Demons assistant coach Greg Stafford did his best to laugh off the snub.

"Well we believe we're co-tenants of Optus along with Freo and West Coast after the experience we had last year," Stafford said tongue in cheek in reference to Melbourne's grand final success at the venue last year.

"Look, these things are very marginal. Yes, it's good to train on the ground you play on. But is it critical? No.

"We spent a lot of time here at the back-end of last year. We had lots of games (at Optus Stadium) and enjoyed some success. We're very familiar with the place, we love playing here."

Melbourne welcome back star defender Jake Lever, while Fremantle have been boosted by the return of forward Rory Lobb.

The second-placed Demons are in danger of slipping out of the top four after losing five of their past eight matches, while Fremantle are eager to bounce back from last week's draw against Richmond.

Meanwhile, Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir has sung the praises of Hayden Young, but he says the Dockers defender hasn't been handed a licence to thrill.

Young has emerged as one of the league's best defenders this year, with his raking long kicks and intercept marking ability playing a huge role in Fremantle's success.

The 21-year-old is often relied upon to set up an attacking play from defence, meaning he takes on riskier kick options.

So has he been given a free licence to roll the dice whenever he wants?

"No he hasn't," Longmuir said with a chuckle.

"He's worked really hard to find the balance in his kicking. Quite often people judge kicking by how much you can pull off, and the (difficulty of) the kick you pull off.

"With Youngy, his coaching has been more around hitting the basic kick more often.

"He's found a real balance between being a reliable kick versus setting the game up for us."

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