MELBOURNE coach Simon Goodwin has refuted ex-Adelaide premiership teammate Mark Ricciuto's comments on Jake Lever's contract, labelling the comments "unfair".
The Crows are under mounting pressure because of an 0-2 start and various off-field controversies, including Ricciuto's decision to publicly address the series of players who've departed the club.
One of those players was defender Lever, who Adelaide club director Ricciuto claimed crossed to the Demons on a five-year deal worth between $800,000 and $850,000 per season.
"He's probably a $500,000 player," Ricciuto said on Triple M of Lever.
Goodwin said he became aware of Ricciuto's comments on Thursday morning and subsequently shared a laugh with Lever about them.
However, he was serious in saying the contents of what Ricciuto said were inaccurate and inappropriate.
"He's very passionate about the Adelaide footy club and he's very parochial and clearly he thought it was going to be the right thing to come out and justify his decisions," Goodwin said.
"That's their choice. They can come out and justify why they made certain decisions but that's something we certainly don't do as a footy club.
"The thing we probably need to make sure is right is that the term of the contract's not right (that Ricciuto suggested) – the number's not right ...
"But also we actually love Jake. We want him at our footy club and we'd pay him whatever we want to pay him now to have him here."
Asked directly if Lever's contract was more than $800,000, Goodwin answered "no".
He is yet to speak to Ricciuto about his comments but said he planned to at some stage.
"I think it's unfair for Jake to have that thrown out there, first and foremost. I just don't think it's right," Goodwin said.
"It doesn't happen around the industry much, where you get out there and try and talk about the specifics of players' deals. I think it's really unfair on the player.
"Jake and I had a good laugh about it this morning, once I got the information it had taken place, and I just reassured him we love what he brings to the footy club."
Meanwhile, Goodwin confirmed Kysaiah 'Kozzy' Pickett would return against Essendon on Sunday from his one-game ban after breaching the AFL's strict COVID-19 protocols.
Charlie Spargo, who was with Pickett when he travelled via Uber to "a non-essential gathering", still has another week's suspension to serve.
The coach was less forthright on what would happen with the selection of his key forwards, with Sam Weideman and ex-Bomber Mitch Brown pushing their cases with five goals each in a weekend scratch match.
Neither first-gamer Luke Jackson nor Tom McDonald had an impact in the narrow win over Carlton, while Brown was dropped after playing for his new club in round one.
"The pressure's building and we're looking for our talls to really compete and start bringing the ball to ground and start having an influence on the game," Goodwin said.
"That's the reality of the game – we need some forwards, and some key forwards, to start to influence games of footy."
Goodwin also hinted Aaron vandenBerg (foot) was close to selection after recovering from foot surgery and having extended practice match hit-outs the past fortnight.
The clash with Essendon, which has adopted many similar characteristics to incoming coach Ben Rutten's old club Richmond, is set to provide a gauge of where the Bombers and Demons sit.