Clayton Oliver under the pump in Melbourne Demons’ AFL struggles against the Brisbane Lions at the MCG

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Clayton Oliver’s early season AFL form has abandoned him on Thursday night and he’s coming under intense scrutiny for his performance against the Lions.

Coming off a highly unsettled off-season when he was linked with trade talks and had a stint in hospital, the 26-year-old midfielder had shown flashes of his best in Melbourne’s four straight wins that had the Dees being mentioned among the premiership favourites.

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The three-time All Australian came into Thursday night under a major fitness cloud with a hand issue, however, and he has had no impact on the clash at the MCG.

At halftime, Oliver had just seven disposals, a mark and two tackles, leaving him on a lowly 25 AFL fantasy points.

After Melbourne kicked the opening goal through Alex Neal-Bullen, the Lions took control of the match, kicking seven goals to two at the main break for a 30-point lead.

With the Demons’ troubles made worse after Christian Salem was subbed out early with a hamstring injury, the home side was getting smashed in the midfield.

“You wonder how the midfield dominance has occurred because we talk about how good Melbourne’s midfield is,” Jason Dunstall said on Fox Footy.

“But if (Christian) Petracca’s been taken care of and Oliver is clearly struggling with injury, he’s not getting it, half the battle’s won.

“If those two aren’t attacking the ball you’re halfway home.”

A vast number of footy fans were all saying the same thing on social media as Oliver trended on X, formerly Twitter.

“Clayton Oliver deadset looks like he’s forgotten how to play footy,” was one comment.

“If Clayton Oliver can’t throw his right arm out there, he shouldn’t be playing. I don’t care how good he is, he isn’t that good playing with one arm,” wrote another.

“Clayton Oliver is really struggling. Looks a mile off it,” wrote another fan.

“There’s no way Clayton Oliver is 100%,” added a fourth.

Others felt confidence was an issue for the premiership star as much as injury.

“What none of the analysts are noticing or mentioning is that Clayton Oliver is literally standing at stoppages 2-3 steps back from where he would have stood a year ago and is also moving around the ground like a bloke who’s lost all confidence in himself,” was one opinion.

“Is Clayton Oliver even out there?” asked another.

“Clayton Oliver in ghost mode again this week?” wrote a third.

St Kilda great Leigh Montagna said on Fox Footy Melbourne’s only hope of a comeback was the midfield getting more of the ball.

“They need to get their hands on the footy,” he said. “It starts in the midfield, we spoke about the midfield battle pre-game, and at the moment they’re getting completely beaten.

“So they need to lift.”

Dunstall agreed.

“Well their two biggest names in the midfield are Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca,” he said.

“Oliver’s had seven touches, Petracca’s had nine.

“They’ve had no impact, so those two boys need to get down and dirty.”

Late in the third term, Oliver had lifted his impact slightly, moving to 14 disposals.

But he indicated his struggles when he received the ball coming out of halfback and took a bounce before being rundown by Lion Jarrod Berry as his struggles continued.

“That is a man out of step,” AFL great Dermott Brereton said on AFL Nation.

Playing back in the defensive line, Oliver’s attempted handball late in the quarter landed straight in Charlie Cameron’s lap as he snapped another goal and the Lions took a 43-point lead into the final change.

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