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Crows pull the right Lever with first-round pick

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 19: Jake Lever of the Crows in action during the 2015 AFL round 16 match between Port Adelaide Power and the Adelaide Crows at the Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia on July 19, 2015. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Adelaide key defender Jake Lever has impressed in his first season
I just look forward to the challenge each week of playing on blokes that last year I used to watch on TV
Jake Lever

JAKE Lever relishes a challenge and Adelaide's latest NAB AFL Rising Star nominee says he would love to pick up Lance Franklin this Saturday.

The Swans superstar is no certainty for the SCG contest but 194cm defender Lever hopes Buddy shrugs off a back complaint and takes his place.

"I would absolutely love to play on Buddy Franklin. He's probably the premier forward in the competition at the moment," Lever told AFL.com.au.

"I think 'Tals' (Daniel Talia) will get the match-up on Buddy. If I can spend a bit of time on him and learn from him, that would definitely be a bonus."

Lever is only seven games into his AFL career, but he's drawn high praise for his natural competitiveness.

It's part of the reason why the Calder Cannons product was touted as a potential No.1 pick among last year's draft crop, before he underwent a knee reconstruction and slipped to the relative bargain price of No.14.

The Crows have had no hesitation throwing the 19-year-old into the deep end, with St Kilda revelation Josh Bruce booting five goals on him in just his second game in round seven. 

And Lever – who rates Port Adelaide star Paddy Ryder as his toughest opponent to date – has jumped at the chance to test himself.

"Every match I go into, the players are obviously more experienced than me, and I just look forward to the challenge each week of playing on blokes that last year I used to watch on TV," he said.

Last Saturday, Lever took another step in his promising career, restricting Sam Day to one goal and setting up damaging forward forays from defence as the Crows notched an important win over Gold Coast.

Lever collected 24 touches, used the ball at a remarkable 92 per cent efficiency, took 10 marks and rebounded the ball from defensive 50 seven times to earn the round 17 Rising Star gong.

Who's your tip for this year's NAB AFL Rising Star? Vote at the Rising Star hub

He follows in the footsteps of his mentor Talia, another Calder Cannons graduate who won the award in 2012 and was last year's All Australian full-back. 

"He's obviously a fantastic player and just the way he goes about his football and his preparation, he's a perfect role model for me," Lever said. 

"He doesn't sugar-coat anything. If I don't concentrate for one or two minutes of the game you can really get blown out of the game, in a sense.

"He's always tells me to concentrate and he's always reminding me on-field."

Lever becomes the Crows' ninth Rising Star nominee since 2012 and their second this year after small forward Charlie Cameron was the round 13 nominee. 

Jake Lever's junior club: Romsey Juniors