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Hibberd excited by potential Lever swoop

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 26: Michael Hibberd of the Demons runs with the ball  during the round 23 AFL match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Melbourne Demons at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 26, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images/AFL Media)
All Australian defender Michael Hibberd averaged a career-high 27.4 disposals (7.1 contested), at 77 per cent efficiency, 6.8 rebound 50s (second in the AFL) and 545.7 metres gained per match in his first season with the Demons
We had an opportunity on Saturday to guarantee ourselves a spot in the finals and we weren't good enough
Michael Hibberd

ALL AUSTRALIAN defender Michael Hibberd is excited about the prospect of having in-demand Crow Jake Lever at the Demons, but none the wiser about negotiations.

Lever, who has long been linked to Melbourne, is one of the game's brightest young stars and out of contract at season's end.

Speculation heightened about the 21-year-old's playing future when his Adelaide teammate Mitch McGovern re-signed this week.

"I've stuck away from it a little bit. I mean, you hear rumours in the media and stuff like that, but no one at the club's given me any inkling," Hibberd told AFL.com.au.

"But I know I'd love to play alongside him in the backline, so if he does decide to come over I'll welcome him with open arms."

Hibberd's career-best season in his first year at the Demons was not enough to spare red and blue blushes as they slid out of the top eight because of West Coast's round 23 win.

Melbourne could have locked away a first finals berth since 2006 the day before the Eagles' victory, only to fail to make up a 32-point first-quarter deficit against Collingwood.

Hibberd echoed co-captain Nathan Jones' hope that the events in the last round and the earlier inconsistency that put the club in that situation would "burn in our guts" ahead of 2018.

"Everyone's very disappointed and upset – it was a tough night on Sunday, watching the game and waiting on another result and having no impact on what might happen," Hibberd said.

"So that was hard and it was a rough night, but hopefully we learn from it.

"We had an opportunity on Saturday to guarantee ourselves a spot in the finals and we weren't good enough."

Not even Brownlow Medal favourite Dustin Martin averaged more than Hibberd's 545.7 metres gained per match this year.

The 27-year-old also averaged a career-high 27.4 disposals (7.1 contested), at 77 per cent efficiency, and 6.8 rebound 50s (second in the AFL).

Hibberd's season was more remarkable once you consider he sat out last year because of Essendon's infamous supplements saga and largely trained away from his former teammates.

An Achilles injury sidelined him for the first four games of this season, too.

"It's been a good year personally, to come back after a year off and be able to perform – and I had a really good, fun time with a new club," Hibberd said.

"Missing the first four games was disappointing, but probably helped me get through the year and play pretty well at the back end, which I've battled with in the past."

Hibberd remains in contact with many current Bombers and was pleased they were able to return to September action.

Zach Merrett, Michael Hurley and fellow ex-Essendon footballer Paddy Ryder also made the All Australian team.

"I'm very disappointed I'm not playing finals with Melbourne and that's hard to deal with, but I'm rapt for those blokes," he said.

"I have a lot of close friends there and they deserve it and I wish them all the best.

"I have some really close friends there and I'll be watching on TV and cheering them on, so good luck to them."