AFL: Who will be this year’s Rising Star?

In what is the first of many awards to be handed out at the conclusion of the AFL’s home and away season, tomorrow will see the announcement of the 2012 NAB AFL Rising Star.

Essendon’s Dyson Heppell was the winner of last year’s NAB AFL Rising Star Award (source: essendonfc.com.au)

Greater Western Sydney has received a record eight nominations in 2012, including highly-touted contenders Jeremy Cameron and Adam Treloar. Giants’ midfielder Toby Greene, who has produced a sterling debut season, is ineligible for the award after receiving a reprimand for rough conduct against Brisbane in round eight.

The winner will receive the Ron Evans Medal.

This list will evaluate every nominated player and their chances of taking home the award, starting at round one.

Round 1 – Claye Beams (Brisbane Lions)

The brother of Collingwood’s Dayne, Beams’ nomination after the opening round of the season came as somewhat of a surprise, with many expecting Bulldogs’ debutant Clay Smith to catch the eye of the selection panel. While Smith failed to progress to great heights in the remainder of the season, neither did Beams; the 21 year-old only managed seven more games for the season. However, a season highlight of 26 disposals and a goal against the Western Bulldogs in Round 23 should propel the nuggetty rover to better things in 2013.

Can he win it? No.

Round 2 – Jeremy Cameron (Greater Western Sydney)

Cameron is one of the brightest young prospects in the game, and it’s not hard to see why. The 19 year-old appears to be the complete package, with skill and agility to match his 196cm frame. The key forward produced an outstanding season in a struggling team, kicking 29 goals in 16 games. Cameron also managed multiple hauls of goals nine times, including a bag of five against the Western Bulldogs in round four. However, his absence from six games of the season, including the final three rounds, may have an impact on votes.

Can he win it? Yes. If he doesn’t place first, he will almost certainly be runner-up.

Giants’ forward Jeremy Cameron is a strong contender for the award (source: afl.com.au)

Round 3 – Dylan Grimes (Richmond)

Grimes, brother of Demons’ skipper Jack, has endured a tough season with injuries. The tall, lean defender managed just nine games this year and failed to play again after round 14. However, it’s clear that the Tigers have a quality defender on their hands. Grimes has shown remarkable strength one-on-one, despite his skinny frame, and possesses good skills by foot. He also managed to average an impressive 16.1 disposals, despite playing primarily as a negating defender.  The key for Grimes will be ensuring that his body can hold up to the rigours of AFL.

Can he win it? No.

Round 4 – Mitch Wallis (Western Bulldogs)

Wallis, son of former Bulldogs captain Steven Wallis, was highly touted prior to being drafted under the father-son rule in 2010. Despite a lean year in 2011, the golden-locked midfielder has been a revelation for the Western Bulldogs this season, averaging 22.3 disposals a game and becoming an important cog in the Bulldogs’ midfield. Wallis’ best performance came in his team’s victory over North Melbourne in round seven, collecting 28 disposals and a goal. There is little doubt that he will feature heavily in the votes.

Can he win it? Yes. He is very likely to feature in the top three, but has he stood out enough to win it?

Round 5 – Tomas Bugg (Greater Western Sydney)

No doubt the future recipient of countless puns and nicknames, Bugg has been one of the most consistent performers in the Giants’ inaugural season. The classy defender managed 18 games for the year, averaging 17.6 disposals a game and showcasing an impressive degree of composure for a 19 year-old. Bugg opened up the season with an outstanding 27 disposals in his debut against Sydney and, despite some expected drops in form, has become entrenched in the Giants’ best 22.

Can he win it? No. However, he could sneak into the top five due to his consistency.

Round 6 – Steven Motlop (Geelong)

It’s not surprising that yet another Motlop has managed to thrill audiences on the football field. Steven, the brother of Shannon and Daniel, established himself as a genuine AFL player in 2012. The 21 year-old forward, who has also shown his capabilities in the midfield, averaged 13.8 disposals and kicked 25 goals. He also only missed one game for the entire season. Motlop’s best performance came against Melbourne in round six in which he collected 28 disposals and a goal, for which he received his nomination.

Can he win it? No, but he could make an appearance in the top five.

Round 7 – Stephen Coniglio (Greater Western Sydney)

Western Australian Coniglio was expected to play well in his debut season, having been drafted at pick no.2 in the 2011 NAB AFL Draft and given his exceptional performance in the 2010 WAFL Grand Final. Despite only playing 12 games this season, Coniglio lived up to most expectations. The 18 year-old midfielder averaged an impressive 21.5 disposals, including 31 disposals and a goal against Gold Coast in round seven. Coniglio will likely not attract votes due to missing ten games, but gave onlookers a glimpse of what’s to come.

Can he win it? No.

Round 8 – Mitchell Golby (Brisbane Lions)

Initially a rookie-listed player, Golby was a nice surprise for the Lions in 2012. The running defender provided a real spark in Brisbane’s backline and worked well in conjunction with Pearce Hanley. Golby averaged 18.5 disposals over 13 games, including 26 disposals against Gold Coast in round four. However, the 20 year-old failed to play again after round 14 after incurring a stress fracture in his foot.

Can he win it? No.

Round 9 – Jake Carlisle (Essendon)

Prior to this season, Carlisle was more renowned for Andrew Walkers’ famous mark in 2011 than his own ability. However, the 20 year-old has been a rock in defence for Essendon in 2012 and established himself a future key defender. Amongst those nominated, Carlisle is ranked 2nd for total contested marks and time on ground, indicating his rising importance for the Bombers’ defensive structure. He managed 18 games for the season and could attract votes for his consistency.

Can he win it? No. Two key defenders in the top five isn’t likely either, but it’s possible.

Round 10 – Dylan Shiel (Greater Western Sydney)

Shiel’s performance of 21 disposals and two goals against Geelong in round ten was enough to earn him a nomination, but it was his class and finesse with the ball that impressed most. Despite an impaired pre-season, the 19 year-old midfielder showcased his immense talent in his 12 games for the season, averaging 19 disposals a game. Shiel’s season was cut short due to surgery, but it’s clear that he has a strong future ahead of him.

Can he win it? No.

Round 11 – Ben Sinclair (Collingwood)

Amidst Collingwood’s array of injuries early in the season, Sinclair stood up to provide a spark in the Magpies’ attack. The speedy forward impressed with his pace and tackling, adding some much-needed defensive pressure. He also managed to kick multiple bags of goals four times in his 18 games for the season. Sinclair failed to make Collingwood’s team in round 23, but has proven to be an asset over the course of the season. However, it is clear that he needs to add an extra layer of polish to his game.

Can he win it? No.

Round 12 – Daniel Talia (Adelaide)

It’s amazing to think that the likely winner of the 2012 NAB Rising Star Award wasn’t even nominated until halfway through the season. The tall defender may become Adelaide’s first winner, having played all 22 games and quelled numerous power forwards such as Sam Reid, Matthew Pavlich and Jack Riewoldt. The 20 year-old doesn’t have an overly impressive stats sheet, instead preferring to focus on his defensive output. Whether or not this works against him in the voting remains to be seen, but Talia is widely tipped to take home the Ron Evans medal.

Can he win it? Yes. Like Cameron, Talia will finish runner-up if he doesn’t win.

Adelaide defender Daniel Talia is the hot favourite to take home the Ron Evans Medal (source: afl.com.au)

Round 13 – Tom McDonald (Melbourne)

McDonald joins Talia, Carlisle and Grimes as tall defenders nominated for the award. In a dark year for the Demons, McDonald has been a shining light in defence. The 19 year-old has not only proven to be capable defensively, but also provide attack out of the backline as well, having averaged nearly 17 disposals per game. McDonald’s best performance came in round 19, in which he collected 23 disposals against Gold Coast at the MCG. He is ranked 1st amongst those nominated in total marks and could be an important cog in the Demons’ backline for years to come.

Can he win it? No. He could scrap into the top five, but Melbourne’s poor year may hurt.

Round 14 – Toby Greene (Greater Western Sydney)

Many believe Greene would have been a shoe-in for the award had he not received a reprimand in round eight and been rendered ineligible. There’s certainly a case to be made, as the 18 year-old Greene has averaged an astonishing 28.4 disposals a game – the best of any debutant and ranked eighth in the AFL. The hard-running midfielder impressed with his willingness to get to contests and is a natural ball-winner. Even though Greene will not receive votes for the award, it is clear that he is a star in the making.

Can he win it? No – ineligible.

Round 15 – Arryn Siposs (St. Kilda)

St. Kilda hasn’t been attributed to quality young players in recent times, but Siposs appears to be a star of the future. The 189cm utility can play in a variety of positions and impressed with his elite kicking skills, particularly his efforts from long-range. The 19 year-old failed to play until round 6, but soon consolidated himself as an important player for St. Kilda. The key for Siposs will be establishing consistency.

Can he win it? No.

Round 16 – Josh Caddy (Gold Coast)

The first – and only – nomination this season for the Suns, Caddy enjoyed a solid second year in which he averaged 15.2 disposals. The solidly built 19 year-old also impressed up forward, kicking 15 goals for the season, including three in the Suns’ famous win over Carlton in Round 22. Caddy has been the feature of much speculation regarding his future, having been linked to Essendon the previous year. Whether he stays at Gold Coast or not, he should continue to develop into a quality inside midfielder.

Can he win it? No.

Round 17 – Brandon Ellis (Richmond)

Ellis was a remarkable example of consistency in his debut season, playing in every game except round 23. The strong-bodied defender appears to have a mature head on his shoulders and offered the Tigers pace and skill coming out of defence, averaging nearly 16 disposals a game. With another pre-season, it is possible that the 19 year-old could move into the centre and add another hard body to the Tigers’ already-impressive midfield brigade.

Can he win it? No. His consistency could see a top five placing, but it’s unlikely.

Round 18 – Adam Treloar (Greater Western Sydney)

Despite not being nominated until round 18, it is very possible that Treloar could manage a top three finish in the voting. The exciting 21 year-old dazzled onlookers with his pace and goal-kicking ability, offering the Giants a real spark in the second half of the season. Treloar’s debut season is even more impressive when considering that he barely had a pre-season. His best performance came in round 18 against Collingwood, for which he accumulated 37 disposals and earned his nomination. Treloar is one of many exciting midfielders developing at Greater Western Sydney.

Can he win it? Probably not, but a top three finish is possible. He is a certainty for top five.

Giants’ midfielder Adam Treloar has finished the season strongly and could feature in the voting (source: afl.com.au)

Round 19 – Devon Smith (Greater Western Sydney)

Yet another Giant to be nominated for the award, Devon Smith enjoyed a solid debut season in which he averaged nearly 16 disposals a game and kicked ten goals. The small forward, who can also feature in the midfield, particularly impressed with his ferocious tackling and is ranked 1st amongst those nominated for total tackles. The 19 year-old also managed to play all but two games for the season, indicating the he will be an important cog in the Giants’ line-up for the future.

Can he win it? No.

Round 20 – Sam Blease (Melbourne)

Inhibited by a broken leg early his career, Blease proved to be an excitement machine at times in 2012. Despite floundering consistency, the 21 year-old regularly showcased his best asset – pace. Blease stormed past opponents with ease at times, kicking 19 goals in 16 games including five against St. Kilda in round 20. Assuming he can become a consistent performer, Blease shapes as an important player in Melbourne’s rebuilding stage.

Can he win it? No.

Round 21 – Sam Shaw (Adelaide)

Shaw endured a tough start to his career, having been sidelined for nearly two years due to back and hamstring issues. Having finally completed a full pre-season prior to 2012, Shaw soon became an important third-tall for Adelaide in defence. The 21 year-old is ranked in the top ten in the AFL for rebound 50s and one percenters per game, highlighting his importance to the Crows’ backline. Assuming Shaw can keep his body fit and healthy, the speedy left-footer should be a key player in Adelaide’s defence for years to come.

Can he win it? No.

Round 22 – Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide)

Many thought Port Adelaide had landed a steal in the 2011 NAB AFL Draft, when they managed to snare local boy Wingard with pick no.6. It took some time for the classy midfielder to find his feet at the elite level, but his strong final six games, in which he averaged 17.3 disposals, gave a preview of things to come. Wingard has courage to back up his impressive skill and should develop into a star for Port Adelaide over the next few years.

Can he win it? No.

Round 23 – Dom Tyson (Greater Western Sydney)

The final player to be nominated for the 2012 NAB AFL Rising Star Award, Tyson steadily improved throughout the season to become a reliable ball-winner for the Giants. The no.3 draft pick showcased composure under pressure and a pinpoint left-foot kick, much like the Brisbane Lions’ Simon Black. With extra conditioning and experience, the 19 year-old is expected to eventually develop into an elite midfielder.

Can he win it? No.

Nick Schomburgk’s Final Placings

  1. Daniel Talia (Adelaide)
  2. Jeremy Cameron (Greater Western Sydney)
  3. Mitch Wallis (Western Bulldogs)
  4. Adam Treloar (Greater Western Sydney)
  5. Steven Motlop (Geelong)

Throughout the AFL home and away season, each round one of the league’s young talents is nominated for the prestigious award. To be eligible for the NAB AFL Rising Star award, a player must have played 10 games or fewer prior to the start of the season, and be younger than 21 years of age on January 1st.

The award has been claimed by past and current AFL superstars since its inception in 1993, including Nathan Buckley, Ben Cousins, Adam Goodes, Nick Riewoldt and Sam Mitchell.

Nick Schomburgk is a first-year Sport Journalism student at La Trobe University. 

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