Jake Lever and Mitch McGovern have been the centre of trade speculation in Adelaide over the past few months.
Lever, 21, is in his third year of AFL football and has taken his game to new heights this season as an intercept defender in the Crows back six.
McGovern, 22, has also made great strides in 2017 after making his debut last year. A severe hamstring tear in Round 3 hampered his progress, but since his return the West Australian has kicked 11 goals in his last four matches.
Both players are attracting big offers from their home states. Lever, who is believed to have received offers in the $800,000 range, has reportedly ruled out the Western Bulldogs as a potential destination and has his eyes set on Melbourne and Collingwood. McGovern has reportedly been offered a five-year, $750,000 offer to sign with Fremantle, which is more than double what Adelaide offered him earlier in the season.
So which player’s signature is of the highest importance to the Crows?
Lever has been touted as a future captain of the Adelaide Football Club should he stay. Only 52 games into his AFL career, he has displayed tremendous on-field leadership in big games and captained in his junior days.
As noted previously, he is one of the game’s elite intercept markers and one-on-one defenders. Labelled by many experts as the game’s next Alex Rance, Lever’s statistics through his first 50 games compare favourably to greats that have gone before him.
This season he has overtaken two-time All-Australian Daniel Talia as the Crows’ most important key defender and has shown he is not afraid to stand up for his teammates on the big stage.
McGovern, whose brother Jeremy plays for West Coast, has been nicknamed ‘gecko hands’ because of his ability to take contested marks. Aside from his ability to leap in a contest, McGovern has tremendous speed and footy smarts.
Playing as the fourth option in the forward line behind Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins and Eddie Betts, he has learnt to constantly move and create space for his teammates. It is no surprise that Adelaide’s best footy has been before and after his hamstring injury, and their losses to the Kangaroos, Demons, Cats and Hawks came when he was sidelined.
If McGovern were to move to Fremantle, he would undoubtedly become their number one forward and draw the best key defenders in the game each week. In Adelaide, although his stats will most likely be down somewhat compared to if he played elsewhere, he will be in a position to compete for a premiership and continue to grow his game without the pressure of kicking 60 goals in a season.
There is little doubt in the minds of most that no matter where Lever plays he will notch up 200-plus games and receive All Australian honours. The question for him is whether he wants to play at the Crows, who will most likely remain successful for years to come, or at Melbourne, who have a good shot at becoming a successful club.
In an ideal world in Adelaide both players would take pay cuts and remain with the team, but as this appears unlikely, McGovern should become the Crows’ number one priority. While he does not have the leadership qualities of Lever, key forwards who can run and leap are a precious commodity in the modern game and should be cherished when they arise.