A LOT was made of Jake Lever‘s hostile exit from the Adelaide Football Club in the off-season. After weeks of commotion and rumours, the fiasco was ended on the first day of trading, with the Demons landing the young tall defender in exchange for two first round picks and a a swap of later selections.
In his three years at the Crows, Lever played 56 games, quickly establishing himself as arguably the competition’s best young tall defender. His courage and intercept marking ensured the first round draft pick was a vital cog in Adelaide’s terrific, yet unrewarded season.
It certainly appeared as if Lever’s presence would leave a gaping hole in the Crows backline. But waiting in the wings was a 21 year-old, skinny, fresh-faced kid who the Crows took in the first round back in the 2015 National Draft.
His name was Tom Doedee, a junior basketball star who showed promise for TAC Cup side the Geelong Falcons. Coming into draft day, many draft experts believed he would find a home, but it would likely come later in the night.
In what was the biggest surprise of the draft, the Crows recruiters revealed Doedee as their second pick, behind talented South Australian Wayne Milera. Doedee, a raw basketball-convert, spent his first year with the clubs South Australian National Football League (SANFL) side, making him the only first round draftee of 2015 not to make their debut throughout the year. The Crows made him wait and learn his trade in the SANFL again in 2016 and 2017.
Last season was a particularly successful one, in which he led the league for intercept marks. But by this time, some had even forgotten he existed on an AFL list. With Lever out the door, Doedee set his sights on making the third-tall defender spot his own.
A strong, injury free pre-season saw him at long last selected to make his debut in the round one clash with Essendon. Since then, he has barely put a foot wrong. In week two, his 25 disposals (including 14 contested) at an incredible 96% efficiency, 6 marks, 327 metres gained and three inside-50 performance in the 36-point win over Richmond deservedly earned him the rounds rising star nomination.
As a result of Doedee’s outstanding start and, in contrast, Jake Lever’s struggles, debate has surfaced surrounding who the better player is. Doedee beats out Lever in five vital statistical areas – disposals, disposal efficiency, intercept possessions, marks and score involvements.
Granted, Lever may need more time to adjust before he is so harshly criticised, but Doedee’s success goes to show that spending time learning from coaches and playing against battled-hardened state league opponents can sometimes be a better option than immediately being flung into AFL football.
Doedee is one of a few draftees who seem to elevate their game once they set foot on the hallowed turf in an AFL game. Whilst fans may want to immediately push to see what their teams young players have to offer, some future-stars just simply require patience.