Untried Melbourne forward Jacob Van Rooyen is pressing to make his AFL debut in Round 1 reports AFL.com.au journalist Josh Gabelich.
The West Australian has spent one year at the Demons since being taken with pick No. 19 in the 2021 National Draft, impressing for Casey in 2022 with 36 VFL goals.
After calls came for him to make his debut late last season, Gabelich says improvement across the current pre-season has him well in the frame to earn a spot in Melbourne’s best 22.
“The one to keep an eye on heading into Round 1 at Melbourne is a guy that hasn’t played yet, he’s a young key forward named called Jacob Van Rooyen,” Gabelich told SEN SA Breakfast.
“He had a really strong year last year in the VFL, he kicked 36 goals for Casey.
“There were calls later in the year to get him into the senior side, they didn’t do that in the end.
“They opted to wait and hold him back and he’s had a really big pre-season.
“There’s a feel he could come in and play Round 1.”
After starting last year 10-0, Melbourne went 6-8 in the back end of the season with their forward line cohesion a key issue.
Given those troubles and the departure of Sam Weideman in the off-season, Gabelich believes a spot in the front six has Van Rooyen’s name on it if he continues to impress.
“Think back to last year, they had some issues with their key targets in attack,” Gabelich said.
“Ben Brown kicked 30 goals from 19 games, Tom McDonald had a Lisfranc injury, and we didn’t see him in the second half of the year and Sam Weideman is now playing for Essendon.
“Jacob Van Rooyen has had a really big pre-season so far, I think he’s really on track to have a Round 1 debut.
“There’s a lot of excitement around him so far.”
Melbourne open their 2023 campaign with a Round 1 clash against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on March 18.