AFL 2024: Melbourne to work with Kysaiah Pickett on technique

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Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin says Kysaiah Pickett will “continue to improve” on his contested ball technique as the Demons scramble to replace him ahead of a Thursday night blockbuster against Brisbane.

Goodwin said the Demons would take a “team approach” to filling the hole in their forward line against the Lions, which will be the fourth game Pickett has missed due to suspension in a year.

The 22-year-old failed to have his charge for a high bump on Adelaide’s Jake Soligo downgraded to avoid a one-match ban after previously missing two weeks at the start of 2023 and beginning this season suspended due to a rough conduct charge in last year’s semi-final loss to Carlton.

Goodwin said Melbourne did not want to continue losing Pickett to suspension and would continue to work with the forward on his method of attacking the ball.

“We don’t want one of our best players missing games of footy, so we’ll keep working with Kozzie … this isn’t the first conversation that we’ve had,” he said on Wednesday.

“He has modified what he does in terms of his pressure, and we’ll continue to work on tackle technique and the way to intercept the ball better, and he’ll continue to improve in that space.

“What he has got an appetite to do is learn, get better and do it better, so we’ll keep working on that with him.”

Goodwin challenged Pickett to continue working on that part of his game, as he said there was no like-for-like replacement on the Demons’ list.

“We love his intensity, we love the way he attacks the footy, but can you get better at it? You’ve got to learn from your experiences as you go through, and that’s what the best players do,” he said.

“It’s hard to replace Kozzie, he’s an important player … he’s a high quality goalkicker that puts on enormous pressure.

“He certainly won’t be someone that we replace, it’s going to be a team role. Whoever comes in, the expectation is going to be a team thing.”

The coach named Bailey Laurie, Taj Woewodin and potential debutant Koltyn Tholstrup as possible replacements, while he said Lachie Hunter would need at least one more match in the VFL after overcoming a frustrating calf issue.

Goodwin said Hunter could spend time at half-forward when he returned, but he was “open-minded” on how to fit him into the same side as impressive first-year wingman Caleb Windsor.

“He’s an experienced and important player, and it’s good to get a few of these guys starting to transition back into playing VFL footy and giving us some selection headaches because selection pressure is really important for us,” Goodwin said.

“We’re very open minded to how that fits … maybe we move Caleb at some stage, who knows, but we’ll continue to assess that.”

Goodwin praised Steven May for his courageous performance against Adelaide and said he was “feeling better again” as his ribs continued to heal following a nasty collision in round 2.

He said veteran forward Ben Brown would continue to play against Brisbane with longer breaks following the clash to help him remain fit, while the Demons were also pleased with the progress of the hand injury Clayton Oliver is managing.

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