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Lever's long wait nearly over

Jake Lever on First Final Second year Crow Jake Lever runs us through how he is feeling heading into his first ever AFL Final.
I just can’t wait to get out there and play finals football with the boys for the first time
Jake Lever

Twelve months on from the disappointment of his finals omission, Jake Lever is set to experience the September stage for the first time on Saturday night.

Adelaide’s first pick (No.14) in the 2014 National Draft, Lever exceeded expectations to play 12 games in his debut AFL season.

The wiry 194cm, 88kg, defender, who spent all of 2013 recovering from a knee reconstruction, impressed with his maturity, aggression and willingness to take the game on.

But after a quiet game in a poor team performance against Geelong in Round 23, the promising teenager was left out of the side to play the Western Bulldogs in the Elimination Final. He was replaced by Kyle Cheney, who kept Lever out of the team for the Club’s two finals.

Lever travelled to the MCG as an emergency, helped his teammates warm up and watched from the sidelines as they competed in the biggest games of the season.

“Last year, when I did miss out it was obviously really disappointing. I guess it gave me some fuel to have a really good pre-season,” Lever said.

“I set a goal at the start of pre-season that I wanted to play every game this year and so far I’ve done that. I’m pretty stoked that I was able to achieve that and now just can’t wait to get out there and play finals football with the boys for the first time.”

Lever, who prides himself on being prepared, has tried to get a feel for what awaits him at Adelaide Oval this weekend.

“I probably don’t know that to expect yet,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to a couple of the boys and they’ve just told me to be calm and, as everyone says, it’s just another game. But in a sense it’s not.

“For me, it’s just about keeping my same routine, staying calm out on the field and not trying to do anything special. I just have to play my role for the team.”

In a first, the top-eight clubs have had an extra week to prepare for the start of finals.

Lever hasn’t experienced the alternative, but said he had mixed emotions about the bye weekend.

“Physically, the bye has been good, but mentally especially coming off the loss that we had (against West Coast) you want to respond,” he said.

“It’s a bit 50-50. Your body feels really good but mentally you just want to get out there and play finals football because that’s what it’s all about.”

The Crows will take on a familiar opponent in North Melbourne, who they have played twice already this season for one loss and one win.

In Adelaide’s Round One defeat at Etihad Stadium, the Kangaroos’ talls were the difference.

Jarrad Waite (three), Ben Brown and Drew Petrie (two apiece) each kicked multiple goals while ruckman Todd Goldstein was also influential, particularly, in the last quarter.

The Crows fielded another tall defender in Kyle Hartigan, who was left out of the season-opener, when the two teams met again in Round 14. Adelaide was able to restrict the Roos to 10 goals and record a 33-point win at home.

North Melbourne is the best contested marking team inside forward 50m in the competition, and Lever said the Crows talls would need to compete strongly on Saturday night.

“In Round One, they beat us in the contested marks,” Lever said.

“We were up and about early in the third quarter, but in the last quarter they ended up getting us with their contested marks and just being able to move the ball forward from that.

“Obviously, they’ve got the three big talls up there and ‘Goldy’ as well in the ruck.

“Last time we played them … we got the job done especially in the air, so that’s a big focus for us again this weekend.”

Limited tickets remain for the Club’s first-ever final at Adelaide Oval. Get tickets here.

The Kangaroos are yet to secure a win at the venue and Lever was hopeful the home ground advantage would be a factor again on Saturday night.

“It’ll be great to play in front of our home crowd. I’m sure there’s going to be over 50,000 there on Saturday night,” he said.

“We’re just looking forward to getting out there and showing the fans what we’ve been able to do all year. We’ve earned ourselves a finals spot, so let’s go out and do it.”

Lever’s parents and two brothers, as well as members of his partner Jess’ family will make the trip from Victoria to watch the game live.

The level-headed 20-year-old isn’t expecting any extra nerves ahead of the knockout clash.

“I don’t really get nervous before games. I get excited more than anything. I think I’ll probably be even more excited this week than I normally am!” he said.

“Once the ball is bounced, it’s just another game and I’ll focus on what I have to do for the team.”