Melbourne will stick with its highly rated and struggling recruit Jake Lever as the club works to rectify a defensive weakness that both the Demons and their former coach Paul Roos have identified as their major issue.
Melbourne football operations manager Josh Mahoney confirmed that the Demons would not drop Lever, who crossed to the club from Adelaide on a lucrative four-year deal and is adapting to a new backline system under Roos’ successor, Simon Goodwin.
‘‘He’s trying to learn a new new defensive structure,’’ Mahoney said of Lever, who had 15 disposals but was ineffective in the club’s embarrassing 67-point loss to a Hawthorn team that lost three players during the game.
Lever, 22, has been well-below the form he displayed with the Crows last season, just his third in the AFL, when his elite intercept marking took him to the All-Australian squad. The Demons gave up not only a sizeable contract and made Lever one of highest paid players, but parted with their 2017 and 2018 first round draft picks as part of the trade with Adelaide.
Mahoney, asked whether Lever and his fellow defenders had been not paying enough attention to their direct opponents, said defenders had to play on an opponent ‘‘and beat them and also look to help out their teammates.’’
Roos, who handed over the coaching reins to Goodwin at the end of 2016, said the first four games suggested that the Demons had defensive problems. ‘‘The first month has told us they’ve got defensive deficiencies at the moment,’’ he said.
Roos said the Melbourne defence was being exposed because defenders were playing too ‘‘high’’’ and opening themselves up. "I think the defence is getting exposed because they’re so high up the ground.’’
Roos noted that the Demons had conceded 20 scores from 24 forward entries against them in the first half against Geelong in round one and had leaked 18 goals against the Hawks, who had 54 entries to Melbourne’s 53.
Roos said winning the contest was not the issue – the Demons bested the Hawks by 14 in contested balls on Sunday. ‘‘I think their problem is is in transition - forward entries and stopping teams from scoring.’’
Melbourne also was out-tackled 113 to 74 and Mahoney said the Hawks had handled the wet conditions better.
The Demons are likely to bring back midfielder Dom Tyson, who was ill last week, and adventurous running defender Jayden Hunt, who performed well in the VFL.
They will also consider Cam Pedersen, rookie Tim Smith and forward Sam Weideman.
Mahoney said key forward/defender Tom McDonald was ‘‘a couple of weeks’’ from resuming, with skipper Jack Viney three to four weeks from his return.