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Crows quick to pull the Lever for defensive dash

Jake Lever of the Crows evades a tackle during the 2015 AFL Round 08 match between the GWS Giants and the Adelaide Crows at Spotless Stadium, Sydney on May 23, 2015. (Photo: Mark Metcalfe/AFL Media)
Jake Lever will become an elite AFL defender, according to Darren Milburn
I think he's going to be a fantastic player for a long time
Darren Milburn on Jake Lever

PORT Adelaide would have lost to Collingwood last week had it not been for Jack Hombsch and Matthew Broadbent's nerve in defence. 

The duo's read of the game was crucial late against the Magpies, helping the Power handle 18 final-term inside 50s to survive as three-point victors.

Broadbent took seven marks and accumulated 10 rebound 50s, Hombsch had five of his own, took six marks and kept Travis Cloke goalless. 

Both Port defenders will be monitored closely in Sunday's Showdown.

Showdown's best to win Phillip Walsh Medal

Adelaide defence coach Darren Milburn holds players who not only negate an opponent but then win their own possession in the highest regard.

Speaking to AFL.com.au, he nominated the likes of Brodie Smith and Ricky Henderson as the Crows' answer to Port's rebounding combination.

"You need to be working as a team but if you can have some dominant players that the opposition have to be worried about [then that's ideal]," Milburn said.

"Both of those guys (Hombsch and Broadbent) are very good at intercept marking and I guess we haven't had Brodie Smith down there all year, but he's one who can provide that, Ricky Henderson's the other one. 

"When the ball's coming in, there's no better thing than the defender marking the ball and holding the opposition up so they can counter-attack and get the ball going the other way.

"It makes life much easier, but as I said the pressure up the field helps that."

Young Crow Jake Lever is quickly establishing himself as the type of defender capable of producing serious offensive output.

In his first year of senior football and first back from a knee reconstruction, Lever has wowed his coaches.

Milburn never predicted the 19-year-old would play as regularly as he has this season but has already seen enough to predict  Lever will become one of the AFL's elite defenders.

Lever is ranked second amongst this year's crop of Rising Star nominees for rebounds per game (3.6) and third for average uncontested possessions (12.2). 

It highlights his courage to leave a target when the time is right.

Despite his key-position height of 194cm, Lever glides across the turf and has an innate ability to slip out of congestion.

"Jake's come off a knee reco in under-18s footy and he's come into a new environment but every week he's getting better and better – I think he's going to be a fantastic player for a long time," Milburn said.

"We didn't expect him to play as many games as he has so far but I think he'll be a 200-game player for the footy club. He shows all the attributes to be a great defender and the other thing that makes him stand out is that he likes to lead the group. 

"He's good in traffic, he will take his opponents on and try to beat them but he's still got enough poise to get rid of the footy when he has to." 

Present – as were all Crows and Power players and coaches – at Wednesday's memorial service for late coach Phil Walsh, Milburn said a key message to his team this week was how Walsh would have expected his club to "get on with things" 

He believes Adelaide's playing group has trained with a greater focus his week and he hoped a win against Port would serve as substantial reward.