Footy’s worst kept secret was confirmed a couple of days after the Grand Final when Jake Lever announced he wanted to leave Adelaide to join the Demons. After just three seasons in the senior system, the 21-year-old has become one of the biggest names in the game, with his profile clearly boosted by the somewhat controversial happenings surrounding his impending exit. From a footy perspective, Lever has already established himself as one of the best interceptors in the game. He led the AFL in intercepts in 2017 and averaged 16 disposals and six marks per game. Lever had been seen as a future leader at the Crows, but the lure of greater financial stability and being close to his family has seen a bitter end to his time in Adelaide.
What he’s worth: Despite the Crows wanting two first-round picks, Lever’s trade worth is around Melbourne’s Pick 10 and a future second-round pick.
Destination: Jake Lever will be at Melbourne in 2018. The deal will get done because Adelaide won’t want to lose him for nothing and will settle if Melbourne offered the above deal. The hope from Adelaide’s perspective is that the Demons panic and put together a package featuring two first-round picks. Ultimately, it depends on how long both parties are willing to wait for a deal to be done. The Crows are planning to be relatively active during this trade and free agency period, and it may be in the best interests of the club to get it done quickly. Trade period is never that easy, however, and this could go to the final day.
What he adds to the Demons: From what we have seen, Lever is at his best when he is freed up to play as an intercepting defender. He doesn’t necessarily have to be unaccountable to do so, however, Lever would want to be the third tall in defence. For this to happen, the Demons need to either play the McDonald brothers as the main key defensive posts or back Sam Frost in again to play with Oscar McDonald, having fallen out of favour towards the end of the season.
Melbourne already has some elite intercepting players, with Michael Hibberd and Tom McDonald (when in defence) ranking highly in this area. Given Melbourne’s efficiency going forward from intercepts, the addition of Lever would certainly give the team more opportunities attacking out of defence. The big unknown will be how Lever stands up under the pressure of being one of the biggest names in the competition in 2018. At 21 years of age, he has so much time to deliver on the contract he’ll get at the Demons. But the competition is such a short-sighted beast that he’ll be the subject of harsh criticism if he doesn’t fit in immediately. The South Australian media will have a field day.
Luckily, Lever is a high-quality player who will deliver straight away. The comparisons with Alex Rance will be present constantly, and while they aren’t the exact style of player, Lever playing in Melbourne will cement his status as one of the top five overall defenders in the competition.