MELBOURNE defender Jake Lever was thrilled to make it through his comeback match unscathed on Saturday and remains focused on trying to return to the senior side in a fortnight against the Crows.
Lever played his first game in almost 11 months when he returned from an ACL injury to play for the Casey Demons in their 43-point loss against Port Melbourne in the VFL on Saturday.
The 23-year-old picked up seven disposals and pulled down two of his trademark marks while playing on restricted minutes and is aiming to play a full VFL game against Williamstown next weekend.
Lever admitted he felt a bit cautious heading into the match, but his nerves settled down early once he found a bit of the ball.
"I was a little nervous before the game, just having not played for so long," Lever told the Melbourne website.
"Once I got out there and got involved in my first contest, I was ready to go and blew off a couple of cobwebs.
"It's just positive being out there and getting that one of out of the way, and hopefully moving onto next week."
Lever hopes to make his return to the AFL when the Demons take on his former side the Crows in round 11, but whether that comes to fruition will depend a lot on how his body copes with a full game next week.
"The body feels good," Lever said.
"I was on restricted minutes today, so it will probably be my first full game that will be the test.
"I ran under a couple of balls and didn't time spoils like I normally would, but I think that's going to come back with time.
"I probably personally let myself down in the last quarter, but it was just great to be back playing."
While Casey coach Jade Rawlings was disappointed to lose the match, he said it was great to have a player of Lever's ilk back playing in his side.
"He's one of the best leaders at Melbourne, so to have him at VFL (level) is a real bonus," Rawlings said.
"I think he's been unbelievable in his rehab and in his attitude towards getting back to play – that's the main thing I've assessed.
"He's got a lot of improvement left in him after today, but our job is to keep increasing his game time and then increase his performance, to have him AFL-ready as soon as we can."