MELBOURNE coach Simon Goodwin says Jack Viney is on track for Round 1 despite him sitting out the JLT opener against North Melbourne on Saturday.
Viney has yet to join the main training group after further surgery on his foot at the end of the 2017 season.
"He's on track for Round 1," Goodwin said.
"We're really confident in Jack, he's nearly back with the main group so he's got another month to get himself ready.
"He's worked incredibly hard Jack, we all know what he can produce and we're confident that he's in a position where he'll be physically ready."
Viney had surgery on his plantar fascia last season but returned to play within 19 days.
The comeback was short-lived though, with Viney breaking down again in Round 21.
The co-captain told the Herald Sun last month that he returned too soon from foot surgery last year.
Despite the shortened pre-season, Goodwin left the door ajar for Viney to feature in the second pre-season game against St Kilda on March 8.
Goodwin said the Demons would persist with playing Jesse Hogan in bursts through the midfield.
The club trialled the positional switch during some games last year, with Tom McDonald the main target inside 50.
"We're really confident that Jesse can play there and we're excited that he can actually do both."
The Demons unveiled a streamlined leadership group, returning co-captains Nathan Jones and Viney, with Max Gawn and Jordan Lewis as vice-captains.
Bernie Vince and Tom McDonald dropped out of the group.
"We got great faith in a smaller leadership group and a great connection and accountability to what we're doing," Goodwin said.
"It's just easier to communicate to have the smaller group ... obviously when you refine a group people miss out, they were fine.
"They're really important people to us as a footy club, they provide leadership at a different level."
Melbourne is expected to name a strong team for the JLT opener, with Dom Tyson (calf) and Viney the notable exclusions along with Jeff Garlett and Dean Kent.
"We know we certainly won't take risks with players but we'll certainly pick a pretty strong team," Goodwin said.
"He (Tyson) won't play this week but he'll definitely be available for JLT 2."
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