Angus Brayshaw’s return to the AFL after a long struggle with concussion is more than just a feel-good story for Melbourne.
The young gun looms as a deadly weapon for the Dees in their quest to make the finals for the first time since 2006.
Brayshaw made his long-awaited AFL comeback during Melbourne’s big win over St Kilda on Sunday, donning headgear after being concussed four times in the space of 12 months.
With more than four months having passed since his last senior appearance, Brayshaw could have been forgiven for being tentative.
But the 21-year-old showed that his exceptional talent and appetite for the contest had not diminished, finishing with 26 touches (10 contested), four marks and three inside-50s.
A sense of relief had earlier swept across the Demons faithful when Brayshaw quickly got to his feet after colliding heavily with Saints midfielder Koby Stevens in the first quarter.
“I thought he was terrific,” Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said.
“I thought today, there were critical contests that he won but he really linked up off half-back as well.
“We know he’s got some extreme talent. He’s a really high draft pick, he can mark the ball, he can certainly create off half-back and he’s got some genuine speed.
“He can be a really important player for us.”
The No.3 pick in the 2014 draft, Brayshaw missed six games last year when he was concussed twice in a short period.
He later described the experience as isolating and mentally challenging, admitting his fear of copping another knock to the head made it difficult to work back into full-contact training.
“We know how much he’s been through, and the family’s been through,” Goodwin said.
“It’s been a long process to get him back to full health. To see him come through that … he just handled the contests extremely well, got back up, kept playing and was away.”
The 24-point victory over the Saints lifted Melbourne to seventh on the ladder, on equal points with eight-placed West Coast and the ninth-placed Western Bulldogs.
They can book their spot in the finals with wins over Brisbane and Collingwood in their remaining games.