If Jake Lever isn’t already a star player after three years in the league, then after his fourth year, he almost certainly will be. Lever has proven in just 56 games over three seasons with Adelaide that he is among the league’s best defenders, specifically due to his elite intercepting ability. This past season, he was selected for the All Australian squad of 40 as just a 21-year-old, and with 10+ years of his best footy ahead of him, he is one of the most sought after players this trade period for a good reason.
Lever’s future has been a big story all year, and his departure became more imminent with each passing week that his signature remained unsecured. He said he was waiting for the new bargaining agreement to kick in before signing, but then he still didn’t sign when it eventually did, and the club and its fans were sure he was gone by that point. When Adelaide showed faith in Lever, who was coming off a serious knee injury in 2014, he said he wanted to be a 10-15 year player for the club. Just three years have gone by and he is on the way out, leaving the club devastated and angry.
Only two days passed between Adelaide’s grand final loss and Lever’s official trade request to Melbourne, and he has now confirmed publicly his desire to be traded to the Melbourne Football Club, who have already tabled a contract believed to be worth close to $800,000 per year. Lever has confirmed he will enter the pre-season draft if a deal with Melbourne isn’t struck, meaning a return to Adelaide is completely off the table. This comes as no surprise as his bridges with the Crows have been burnt publicly in the week following the grand final. First came the decision to leave, then came captain Taylor Walker’s anger over the decision. The (low quality) viral picture which showed a man alleged to be Lever dropping Crows gear at an Adelaide garbage dump was just another step in a saga that played out more publicly than it needed to.
What does it mean for the parties involved?
There is significant interest in Lever due to his youth and his ability which has had many experts dubbing him as the next Alex Rance. Jeremy McGovern and Rance are arguably the only two better intercept defenders compared to Lever, which puts him in classy company as a 21-year-old. Though the deal is done with Melbourne, he still needs to be traded and the Crows have proven to be difficult to deal with in past trade talks. If Lever is forced to enter the pre-season draft, there will be several other Victorian clubs who could theoretically steal him, including Collingwood who were another club in which he had shown interest.
This is where the deal gets slightly complicated. The Crows showed their stubbornness in their pursuit of Bryce Gibbs last trade period, and this won’t be any different. They are demanding a bigger return for Lever than the package Melbourne are currently offering, which is believed to be picks 10 and 27. Adelaide want two first round picks from Melbourne; one for this year’s draft and one for next year; rather than a first and a second round pick. They are unlikely to settle for much less. Adelaide drive a hard bargain, but with Lever ruling out a return to the club next season, they may have to settle for less than they want.
Demons fans can start getting excited about Lever’s arrival, as it is all but certain he will join the Dees in the coming weeks. The price tag is high, but they have done the right thing in ceasing their opportunity to add a young star to an exciting young team.
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