Crucial Dee has eyes on Gabba blockbuster

AFL Rd 7 - Richmond v Melbourne
Melbourne star Jake Lever is expected to return against Brisbane at the Gabba on Friday night. Picture: Dylan Burns / Getty Images

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin says Jake Lever will be a welcome inclusion against Brisbane next week but insists he was “really proud” of the Demons’ three-point escape act on Saturday night.

The Demons defence coughed up five successive final-quarter goals as North Melbourne surged towards an unlikely victory, but Goodwin said the defensive lapse was due to the Roos’ midfielders seizing control rather than the efforts of the back six.

The coach was still relieved to regain Lever for Friday night’s crucial clash at the Gabba after the star interceptor missed the last four games with a knee injury.

Melbourne vs Brisbane
Jake Lever is set to return against Brisbane on Friday night after missing the last four games following knee surgery. Picture: Michael Klein

Goodwin said he was also “pretty confident” Christian Salem would be able to take his place against the Lions despite icing his knee on the bench after being subbed out in the final term.

“Jake Lever will be right to go, he had a pretty big session Thursday and (Saturday), so I’m really confident he’s going to be fine for next week as well,” Goodwin said.

“(Salem) just had a knock through the week and he was still a little bit ginger so we just took him out of the game. We’re pretty confident that he’ll be right to go.”

Goodwin conceded Clayton Oliver had been well beaten by Kangaroos tagger Will Phillips, but said he was buoyed by Jack Viney’s return to form and a 21-disposal, one-goal performance from Trent Rivers in a full-time midfield role.

The coach said he was “sure’ opposition teams would continue to target Oliver for the rest of the season in Christian Petracca’s absence.

“Look it was a tight tag. Phillips did a pretty good job, if you had to say who won the battle, you’d say ‘he won the battle’,” he said.

AFL Rd 15 - Melbourne v North Melbourne
Debutant Kynan Brown (left) and second-gamer Koltyn Tholstrup celebrate their first wins for Melbourne after the three-point victory over the Kangaroos on Saturday night. Picture: Dylan Burns / Getty Images

“He shut Clayton out of the game for the majority of the night. Clayton kept working through it, and he’ll continue to work through it – Clayton’s had a lot of attention for a long time, but the young fella did a good job on him.

“We’ll see what opposition do, I’m sure they will. I’m sure Clayton will be back in some good form soon.”

Goodwin was full of praise for debutant Kynan Brown, who only had one disposal after coming on midway through the final term but laid what could have been the matchwinning tackle when he chased down Nick Larkey on the wing.

“It was brilliant, wasn’t it? That’s what the boys love about him, he’s a great teammate and it’s a big reason why we picked him,” Goodwin said after the tackle.

“He’s a competitor, he works really hard on his game, and obviously when he came on to lay that tackle in that moment, you could see the joy and the celebration of his teammates and what it meant.

“He got a pretty special award next door (in the Melbourne rooms) from us. We want to recognise those type of acts, and that was one act that we’ll celebrate, definitely.”