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Melbourne Football Club

Lever had long been a target: Jackson

Our list management guys … Josh Mahoney, Todd Viney and Jason Taylor – Todd and Jason in particular – have a got a team [that have tracked Lever for a long time]
Peter Jackson

PETER Jackson says Melbourne had targeted Jake Lever long before he was on an AFL list.

The chief executive spoke about the new Demon and former Adelaide defender on 1116 SEN on Tuesday morning, saying Melbourne’s recruiting team had been keeping a close eye on the outstanding young talent when he was a junior footballer.

“Our list management guys … Josh Mahoney, Todd Viney and Jason Taylor – Todd and Jason in particular – have a got a team [that have tracked Lever for a long time],” he said.

“They’ve been on Jake’s case for a while – there’s no doubt about that.

“They would’ve drafted, if they had have been able to get to him in that time – there’s absolutely no doubt.

“When an opportunity arose, they (the recruiting team) jumped in, because they’ve had a fantastic impression of him.”

Jackson said the recruitment of Lever had been handled in a professional manner.

“Some people complained that we overpaid for him – I don’t see it that way at all,” he said.

“I don’t know if people understand all of the points systems that get related to each draft pick, but if you take all of the points that were allocated to all of the picks in that trade, including what we gave away and what we got back, it equates to pick five in the draft.

“Trust me on that. Pick five for Jake Lever, we would think, in our mind, is a damn good deal. If we had have got him this year as a 21-year-old and future leader at pick five – we’d snap him up in a heartbeat. That’s how we see the deal.

“We think it’s going to let Tommy [McDonald] go forward and we’ll put him (Lever) down the back. We think it strengthens both ends of our ground.”

Jackson praised Melbourne’s list management of recent times, highlighting the “amazing breakout season” from Clayton Oliver as an example.

“Melbourne supporters ought to remember that from time-to-time,” he said.

“No one knew who Clayton Oliver was a week before the draft and even when we drafted him, someone said ‘why did they go after him?’

“Well, these guys recognise the talent – the same guys who have been following Jake Lever. They’ve recognised the talent of Clayton Oliver. He’s had a breakout year and has been outstanding.”

Jackson said that experienced recruits such as Jordan Lewis had also been critical to the squad.

“We need to bring guys into the club like that who can actually show our younger fellas that we’re trying to develop what it takes to be an AFL player … and Jordan has been fantastic, as was Daniel Cross, when we brought him in a few years back, because he actually knew what it took to be an AFL player,” he said.

“I know when I got [to Melbourne] in 2013, there were guys who didn’t know what it took to be successful at the AFL level, because they didn’t have those blokes [like Lewis] in the locker room teaching them.

“He’s been fantastic.”

Meanwhile, Jackson added that Melbourne was also keeping a close eye on its future administration base.

“It’s a long-term plan and it’s not easy. There is not a lot of land left around Melbourne,” he said.

“We’re not sure we want to go right out into the boondocks and go greenfields, but we think we want to stay somewhere around the CBD and that area – somewhere adjacent to the MCG, if we can.

“I don’t think Docklands is going to work. The site that was looked at just doesn’t seem to work and it’s not configured or what you need in footy facilities these days.

“Melbourne is the last club that hasn’t got its facilities right. It goes way back to 1981 and we’ve got to resolve it and we’ve got to get it right. There are some options and we are talking to governments and key stakeholders, and there are one or two options. We spent a lot of time at [a recent] board meeting talking about these things, so it is actually up there as an issue we want to resolve. It’s not something you can solve overnight. You’ve got to get your stakeholder support behind you first and then you’ve got to do the fundraising to get it. It’s doable – it’s absolutely doable.”

Meanwhile, Jackson said he was “hopeful” Melbourne would play a home game against a Victorian club in round one next year. And he was optimisitc, but couldn't guarantee that finals were a certainty in 2018. 

“You can never say [finals] are non-negotiable in footy, because you never know what’s going to go on during the year,” he said. 

“We strongly aspire to play finals next year, as part of that upwards growth curve, so we would hope to play finals, but it’s never non-negotiable in this game.”