AFL Round 10: Melbourne vs. Adelaide
Sunday Afternoon, 27th May 2018 at TIO Traeger Park
Jake Lever didn’t hear anything. Not a crack, not a pop, not anything you’re supposed to hear in the second you suffer a season-ending injury. 
In late November 2013, on an AFL Academy training camp on the Gold Coast, Jake Lever tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. It was a heart-breaking moment for the 17 year old footballer and with the 2014 National Draft still 12 months away, he now faced the reality of not playing any football for the next year. There was to be no more chances to impress recruiters of his on-field prowess ahead of that draft.
As a 17 year old, Lever had made the Vic Metro under-18 side as an underage player, even captaining the side in one of the national championship games. With another 12 months of development, Lever was destined to be one of the top prospects of his draft year. But with the baggage of a serious knee injury, what was his draft value now? Which club would be most willing to take the risk on him?
Lever’s gut instinct was that the Bulldogs and Melbourne had shown the most interest in him. More than any other clubs they had spent the time and resources on visiting him and tracking his knee rehabilitation progress . But his hopes of reaching either club were dissipated after the eventful 2014 AFL trade period.
The Bulldogs, holding pick 6 in the draft, were in the box seat to securing Lever in the upcoming draft. But in the mega trade that sent Ryan Griffin to GWS and Tom Boyd the other way, pick 6 became collateral in getting the deal done. Suddenly, the Bulldogs’ first pick in the draft was number 26 (subsequently used to select Toby McLean). The Bulldogs were resigned to the fact Lever wouldn’t make it that far, letting Lever know that the Western Suburbs of Melbourne would not be his new home.
Thanks for all your time this year, mate, it’s been a pleasure. 
Melbourne on the other hand had picks 2 and 3 in the draft, but they were not willing to use either of these picks on Jake Lever (the Demons selected Christian Petracca and Angus Brayshaw). The window of opportunity in getting Lever to the club rested on the potential trade between Melbourne and Richmond for Jack Trengove. Pick 12 was on the table and by all accounts the deal was close to proceeding until Trengove failed his medical at Punt Road. The deal collapsed and the Demons’ third selection in the draft was down to pick 40 (subsequently used to select Alex Neal-Bullen). The likelihood of Lever finding his way to the Demons’ now looked very remote.
We really like you, but I don’t want you getting your hopes up. 
Melbourne Football Club
National Recruitment Manager
With the Bulldogs and the Demons now out of the running, Adelaide was ready to swoop at pick 14. The Adelaide recruiting team, led by Hamish Ogilvie, were big fans of Lever and would have been even prepared to part with a top 10 pick to secure his services. But his selection by Adelaide was not without its own controversy. The local Adelaide media openly questioned the clubs decision, as they had passed on Sam Durdin, widely regarded as the best South Australian prospect in the draft. Durdin was selected two picks later at number 16 by North Melbourne. [Durdin has taken time to develop and establish his credentials at AFL level. He has played only 8 AFL games to date, although has notably been recalled to the senior side this week].
Adelaide of course has a track record of making a success of a surprise pick after overlooking the favoured local talent. In the 2007 National Draft, the Adelaide Crows selected at Number 10 Patrick Dangerfield. Despite nominating for the draft, Dangerfield had already expressed his interest in finishing Year 12 the following year in Victoria before committing full time to football. This may have scared off many of the interstate teams, but not Adelaide, which recognized the long-term investment he would represent. But in selecting Dangerfield, Adelaide overlooked Brad Ebert (later selected at Number 13 by West Coast), the latest talented footballer from a famous South Australian football family.
Although Dangerfield and Lever both proved to be astute selections by the Crows, ultimately the homesickness factor has brought both of them back to Victoria. Whilst Ebert eventually came back to South Australia to play for Port Adelaide, which begs the question should clubs take into consideration home sickness as a factor in their drafting decisions? Or should they just select the best player available? Also, how much credit should Adelaide get for the players that Dangerfield and Lever have become? Was their success inevitable, or did the Crows contribute in enabling their talent to blossom? All difficult questions to answer, but Adelaide has certainly developed a reputation for exceptional player development. Their Grand Final side of 2017 did not have a single Top-10 draft selection and the only one on their 2018 list is the newly arrived Bryce Gibbs.
As for Melbourne they eventually got their man, giving up 2 first round draft picks in the process:
- Melbourne -> Pick 10 + 2018 1st Round Pick + 2018 4th Round Pick
- Adelaide -> Jake Lever + Pick 35 + 2018 3rd Round Pick
Is it no coincidence that the two teams most openly chasing Lever last season were the same two teams that coveted him as a junior? And did the fact that Melbourne showed so much interest in him as a junior contribute to Lever selecting the Demons as his destination of choice last year? What is certain however, is that if Trengove had not failed that medical, the Demons would have certainly got Lever at a much cheaper price.
For every departure, an opportunity presents itself. And whether it was a subtle dig at Lever or not, Sam Jacobs this week has not been afraid to promote the qualities of Lever’s successor in the Adelaide defence, Tom Doedee :
I'm comfortable with him [Lever] going. I'm comfortable the players, like Tom Doedee, we had were going to step up, we were happy we were going to cover him and that's the way it's panned out. From that point of view, it's fantastic, that the spot he left has created opportunities to see those guys come in and play some really strong footy.
He's been unreal. I'm a bit old school … he's done his time in the SANFL, he came second in our best and fairest in the SANFL last year and he led the League in intercept marks, so he was ready to go in terms of doing his time.
He's a really hard-working player and I think it's been a pretty seamless transition. He's really surprised me, played some fantastic footy and he's going to be a good player for a long time.
But Tom Doedee has not been the only player to flourish in the Adelaide team in the absence of a previous mainstay. Since breaking into the side late in 2017, Paul Seedsman has established himself as one of the form players of the competition in 2018. But his presence in the Adelaide starting 22 was perhaps only assured after the serious knee injury sustained by Brodie Smith in the 2017 Qualifying Final against GWS. Smith ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (incidentally the same injury as the 17yo Lever) in his right knee. Smith’s beautiful right kick was replaced in the side by the beautiful right kick of Seedsman. With his accurate long kicking a hallmark of his season so far, should Seedsman be considered a current front-runner for a spot on a wing in the All-Australian team?
Alastair Clarkson recently reflected on the demise of traditional on-field positions including the wingmen. The traditional winger may be extinct but there is still a roll for the outside midfielder that provides the link in the chain from defence or stoppages into attack. In order to determine who has been the best pure winger/outside midfielder in the competition this season we first need to define what we consider the attributes of a quality winger:
- A winger/outside midfielder should be judged on their ability to accumulate uncontested possessions, with a focus on metres gained and delivery of the football into the attacking half in an effective manner.
Based on this definition, we can develop a metric, Winger Points (WPs), to identify who has been the best winger/outside midfielder in the AFL this year. From the above definition, a winger could be equally judged on his ability to accumulate uncontested possessions and achieve effective metres gained. To emphasize the wing as a position, the player should also need to have achieved a minimum number of inside 50s. To emphasize quality, the player should also need to have achieved a minimum level of disposal efficiency. In order to combine the average uncontested possessions per game and the average metres gained, we shall consider one uncontested possession to be the equivalent worth of 25 metres gained. This provides an even weighting between the leading uncontested possession and metres gained player averages. In summary, we can define the following:
- WP = UP + MG/25
- WP = Winger Points
- UP = Uncontested Possessions per game
- MG = Metres Gained per game
In addition to the above, in order for a winger to be considered the best in the AFL this season, they must also achieve the following criteria:
- Played a minimum of two-thirds of matches this season. After Round 9, a player would need to have played 6 games to be under consideration.
- Achieved a minimum 70% Disposal Efficiency. This is 5% less than the requirement for the halfbacks mainly to reflect that a winger is likely to take greater risks entering the attacking half.
- Achieved a minimum of 4 inside 50s per game. This represents approximately the top 50 in the competition for this statistic.
Based on the above, Figure-1 presents the AFL Winger Rankings after Round 9. At the top of the rankings is Paul Seedsman, who has a commanding lead mainly thanks to his average metres gained in excess of 600 m. Surprisingly, in second spot is Sebastian Ross. Undoubtedly players further down on the list have caught more public attention, most notably Jack Macrae (who would surely find himself in the All-Australian side somewhere). However, as a pure outside midfielder, Ross deserves his place as the second best winger in the AFL so far this year. Ross is averaging 18.4 uncontested possessions per game (27.3 disposals in total), 4.7 inside 50s, 467 metres gained and a 75.2% disposal efficiency. It is the Saints poor form as a whole that is overshadowing his consistent performances.
Note: This article represents a continuation of a series of articles to determine the form players of the competition in each position. The premise is to assess each position based on an easily identifiable collection of variables. Each week the rankings will be updated and an All-Australian team will be auto-populated and presented on a stand-alone page. So far, metrics for wingers, attacking halfbacks and key defenders have been developed.
Although Melbourne’s recent form has been impressive, their 6 wins this year have come up against the bottom 5 of the ladder and North Melbourne. Of course, you can only beat who is in front of you and in seasons gone by their lack of consistency would have resulted in the Demons dropping at least one of those games. Hence confidence should be high as Melbourne face an Adelaide side that is only starting to get a few of their injured stars returning to the fold. For Melbourne’s sake, it is a shame that the match is not played at the MCG, where the home ground advantage would have been significant. The neutral territory nullifies any ground advantage and we should be presented with a fascinating contest. Is this the match that will really get the Melbourne bandwagon going?
Melbourne to win by 2 points
 Quayle, E. (2015). “The Draftees”. Penguin Random House Australia.
 AFL.COM.AU (2018). “Big Crow ‘comfortable’ with Lever’s departure”. 21st May 2018. Link: http://www.afl.com.au/news/2018-05-21/big-crow-comfortable-with-levers-departure#/