Melbourne will continue to weigh up their ruck-forward options for the final six rounds of the season despite a promising return from their attacking third and a best-afield performance from captain Max Gawn, who went to battle without fellow tall Brodie Grundy for the first time this year on Friday night against Brisbane.
The Demons decided at selection this week that Grundy would be required to spend time away from senior level to work on his abilities as a forward target, with coach Simon Goodwin instead bringing in young spearhead Jacob van Rooyen in his place for the Round 18 blockbuster.
The move paid off for the red and blue side, who amassed a 28-point comeback against the Lions to win by one point after booting the final four goals of the game - the last coming in the dying moments thanks to a Jake Melksham set shot.
Gawn was dominant throughout the match in taking on the sole ruck duties, recording 29 disposals, 39 hitouts, 10 clearances and a goal from 92% time on ground, giving Goodwin much to consider as Grundy prepares for a scratch match against St Kilda's reserves on Saturday.
Speaking after the thrilling win, Goodwin stated Grundy remains a key part of his plans for the remainder of the 2023 season, with the club looking to leave no stone unturned as they continue to tinker with their attack.
"I thought Max was sensational, first and foremost. He's our skipper and we put a lot of responsibility on him to lead our ruck against a high-quality opponent and I thought he performed sensationally," Goodwin said.
"We speak about Brodie and Max as the combination, I want to go on the record here and say we love their ruck combination, but one thing we're not going to do as a footy club is leave any stone unturned in getting better, and we want more impact forward of the ball.
"The only way we're going to continue to do that is to expose them for longer. So part of the plan for Brodie is to expose him at VFL footy. We've got a practice game tomorrow against St Kilda where he'll play purely as a forward, and we'll continue to assess it like that.
"We think we can turn that combination into a threat moving forward, and we're going to work to do it, and it doesn't have to be at AFL level. We're still really confident that'll work, and as we get closer to the back-end of the year we're gonna need both of them back up and going."
After landing on the turf following a tackle during the game's opening half, Petty was seen in pain and required the attention of club trainers in the rooms shortly after. Petty would eventually return to the field of play and see out the rest of the first half before being replaced by Joel Smith in the third term.
Goodwin revealed after the game that the club will need to assess Petty further in the coming days after he was cleared to play against the Lions days prior for a similar incident.
"He was cleared last week, trained fully (since)," the premiership coach said.
"Just got another knock tonight. He's sore, we just need to investigate it further and make sure he's right. We can't keep subbing him every week."
Defensive midfielder Angus Brayshaw suffered a head knock during the game's opening half but was cleared to continue following a head injury assessment.
The win for Melbourne sees them close the gap on the third-place Lions, who will now hold a four-point buffer heading into Round 19.