Melbourne veteran Tom McDonald looks likely to be making a move back to where it all began, with the key forward target set to spend his time in defence next season.

After being drafted with the 53rd pick of the 2010 AFL Draft, McDonald spent the lion's share of his first six seasons in red and blue playing behind the ball.

Yet, after a shift inside forward 50 in 2017, the 31-year-old proved a potent pillar of Simon Goodwin's offence, booting 158 goals across the past seven seasons.

Recent News CorpĀ reports claim McDonald has spent the opening stages of his pre-season training as part of Goodwin's backline, with the likes of Jacob van Rooyen, Harry Petty, Ben Brown and Josh Schache acting as the tall options up forward.

Though adept behind the ball, McDonald is no certainty to see senior action straight off the bat, with Adam Tomlinson set to press the long-term Demon for a spot beside Steven May and Jake Lever.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 11: Tom McDonald and Adam Tomlinson of the Demons walk off the field after a win during the 2021 AFL Round 04 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Geelong Cats at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 11, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

McDonald will need to impress, however, as he is currently without a contract to remain a Demon beyond the end of the 2024 season.

With forward-midfield hybrid James Harmes now a Bulldog, Goodwin has spent the early part of summer auditioning Shane McAdam, Jack Billings and Koltyn Tholstrup as conduit options heading inside 50.

Throughout 2023, Melbourne may have ranked third in the competition for average goals scored with 8.1 per game but the Redlegs came unstuck for a second straight September, scoring a scrappy 16 goals and 28 behinds to once again be bundled out in straight sets.

Both Billings and McAdam hold career averages north of 1.2 inside 50s per game, with the former producing a mean of 3.37 throughout his 155 games as a Saint.

Further afield, both Clayton Oliver (knee) and Angus Brayshaw (concussion) are training on modfied programs ahead of the Christmas break.