Romsey product Jake Lever on his road to the Grand Final

Jake Lever has taken his game to the next level this season, earning his first All-Australian blazer for his work in the backline. (Melbourne Demons)

By Oliver Lees

From Romsey Park to Optus Stadium, it’s been quite the ride to this year’s AFL Grand Final for Demons defender Jake Lever.

On Saturday, the 25-year-old will line up in front of a packed Perth crowd and a TV audience of millions, as Melbourne seeks to break a 57-year premiership hoodoo by defeating the resurgent Western Bulldogs.

Growing up on a farm in Lancefield, Lever’s love affair with the game of Australian rules dates back to when Lancefield and Romsey shared an affiliated junior side.

“I loved playing at Romsey, I have such great memories from that time,” Lever told the Star Weekly.

“When the club split, I sided with Romsey because my family had played senior’s there.”

It was at the Redbacks where Lever got his first taste of grand final action, winning premierships in under-14s and under-16s.

“As a kid, I just wanted to play footy. I was thrown into the backline in an interleague and I just wanted to try my best to make it my own,” he said.

“When I played Vic Metro and got selected for the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] team, that was when I knew that would be my permanent role.

“I was OK with it, all I wanted was to play footy.”

The product of that experiment is still paying off, as Lever has made a name for himself as an agile intercept defender at AFL level.

This season, Lever led the league in intercepts (10.6 per game) and had the second best average intercept mark tally (4.2) of any defender in the game.

In August, Lever was named among the league’s best, earning his first All-Australian team selection alongside four Melbourne teammates.

Redbacks junior president Eden Jedwab said even at a very young age, he was convinced Lever had it in him to make a career out of playing the game.

“He’s always lived for the game,” Jedwab said.

“He was just a very hard-working young footballer.

“He showed a lot of promise, but also had a real willingness to learn and listen. We’re just rapt to see him be so successful and set an example for other young players at the club.”

After being drafted by the Adelaide Crows with the 14th pick in the 2014 AFL draft, Lever enjoyed an eventful first three years in the league.

He was named three times in the AFL’s 22under 22 squad and drew plaudits from his peers too, as he was recognised as the Crow’s best emerging talent.

In 2017, the same year Lever would line up for the Crows in his first AFL Grand Final, Lever made the All-Australian squad but wasn’t selected for the final 22.

After the Tigers defeated the Crows in the Grand Final, Lever decided to move back to Melbourne to be closer to family.

Now a husband and a father, the 25-year-old has settled into his new role at Melbourne, playing a starring role in the team’s journey to the last game in September.

Speaking after the Demons 83 point mauling of the Cats in the preliminary final, Lever said he felt privileged to once again be in a position to win a flag.

“Words can’t really describe what that game [the preliminary final] was like. The way we planned, the way we executed, it all came to the forefront,” he said.

“I think the people that have been around me my whole life, they’re definitely the reason that I sit here today, and I’m so lucky that they’re devoted to footy like I am.

“I don’t get up to Romsey as much as I used to any more. But when I do I always like to drive past the old footy oval. It’s nice to see they’ve got better facilities since I was there.”