Former Melbourne high-flyer Shaun Smith says his his son Joel will fill the void down back left by emerging defender Jake Lever, who last week ruptured his ACL.
22-year old Joel Smith will get his chance to cement a place in the Demons’ back six when his side takes on Collingwood in their blockbuster Queen’s Birthday clash on Monday.
And there are big shoes to fill, as Lever was recently back to his brilliant best, which coincided with Melbourne’s hot streak of form.
“I’m rapt for him. I’m actually quite nervous, because it’s obviously a huge game,” Smith snr told The Age.
“He’s put a lot of hard work in, he’s obviously had a breakout year last year playing his first game, then he also had two really bad injuries [shoulder and knee].
“He’s been knocking on the door for the last month. Because Melbourne are going so well, he’s just hung tough. I think it’s been good for him to play all that footy down at Casey, just to get his confidence up.
“I think he’ll be OK. He proved last year he can handle that level. Obviously it goes up another notch. I suppose it’s the closest thing to a grand final.”
Smith snr played 109 games for North Melbourne and Melbourne between 1987 and 1998, and took a grab dubbed by many as ‘Mark of the Century’ in Round 22, 1995.
Meanwhile, Joel only managed three games from his debut season in 2017 after being heckled with injuries.
“Obviously Jake Lever, you don’t want to see anyone get injured but obviously him going out of the team [has opened up] Joel’s spot,” Shaun said.
“Jake Lever gives you a bit of run off the back line, and I suppose Joel’s a runner as well.
“He’s been playing some really good footy at Casey. Just playing his role well, and done some lock-down jobs as well. He’s ready to go.”