Max Gawn leaves the field with Melbourne players after the Demon's loss to Brisbane at The Gabba in round 16, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

INCONSISTENT Melbourne still believes it can contend for the premiership, with defender Jake Lever urging his teammates to embrace the challenge of hunting down a finals berth.

The Demons (8-7) dropped to 12th spot on the ladder after letting a 23-point lead slip in a heartbreaking five-point loss to Brisbane at the Gabba on Friday night.

But just six points separate third-placed Fremantle (38 points) and 13th-placed Hawthorn (32), while Melbourne (32) is two points outside the top eight.


When asked if the Demons could still compete at the pointy end of the season, Lever said "absolutely."

"We're only (just over) a game off third," he said.

"It's been an up-and-down season for everyone. Sydney are probably the only team in the competition right now that have had a pretty consistent run in terms of winning games and playing good football. 

"So we understand that we've got a lot of work to do, no doubt about it. 

"For the past probably three years before this, we've been in positions where we're holding on to top four whereas now we're pushing to play finals. So it breeds a new challenge for the group. 

"It's about just coming in every day and wanting to get better and we definitely want to be playing finals footy and being a contender.

"And we have no doubt that if we continue to play like we did in the first three quarters (against Brisbane) we're going to give ourselves the best chance."

Jake Lever is pressured by the defence of Bruce Reville during the match between Brisbane and Melbourne at The Gabba in round 16, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Coach Simon Goodwin lamented his charges going into their shells against the Lions.

Melbourne has been held goalless in the fourth quarter in its past two games, but Lever insisted it wasn't just their attack struggling.

"It's all parts of our game and it's probably been a trend for the past two weeks, we acknowledge that, we've probably played a little bit safe," he said.

"But it's about giving guys belief that we're there for a reason.

"We went away from what we were doing so well in the first three quarters.

"So for us it's just continuing to play the game and not worrying about and get dictated to by results."


Melbourne faces West Coast at the MCG on Sunday, seeking amends for its shock 35-point away loss in May.

Eagles co-captain Oscar Allen has joined Jake Waterman in a new-look tall forward line.

"Steve (May), myself, the whole backline group are gonna be looking forward to that challenge because last time we probably got beaten by them," Lever said.

"I only played a couple of minutes (after being concussed) but it was tough to watch from the bench.

"They've got some forwards but we like to pride ourselves on that when challenged and when there's the best, we stand up and want to be able to really perform under those big expectations."

Jake Lever and Steven May during Melbourne's win over Richmond in round seven, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Lever trained lightly on Monday at Gosch's Paddock, but was feeling good after making his return from knee surgery against Brisbane.

Key forward Harry Petty, who was substituted out of the Lions game, had limited involvement.