The 26th annual AFL Rising Star award winner will be crowned on Friday, and looks to be a race in three. Here’s a look at the leading contenders.
A little more than nine months ago, Stephenson looked like he could be a huge draft slider as concerns emerged about a heart condition he was carrying. If the Magpies hadn’t grabbed him at pick six, it’s likely Stephenson would have fallen out of the top 10, where West Coast would have snaffled him. Pies fans should be grateful their recruiting department were courageous enough to chance their arm on Stephenson, for the freakish forward has starred like few teenagers do. Remarkably, he has played every game for the Pies this year, kicking 34 goals including a haul of five against Adelaide (at Adelaide Oval) and four on Queen’s Birthday Monday against Melbourne at the MCG. The Eastern Ranges product looms as something of a finals wildcard, with the story of his fairytale first season not yet complete.
Jaidyn Stephenson has had a huge influence at Collingwood in his first season, playing all 22 of their games.
Key numbers (Champion Data)
- Was one of three debutants to play in every game (with Tim Kelly and Cameron Rayner).
- Averaged the third most goals of any debutant (1.7). He kicked at least two goals in 11 games (Magpies were 11-0 in these matches). They were 1-6 in the seven games he was goalless in.
- Ranked seventh at Collingwood for score involvements.
- Ranked third at Collingwood for scoreboard impact and fourth for goals, with 34.
- Ranked No.1 at Collingwood for disposals inside 50, second for tackles and fourth for marks in that zone.
Tom Doedee (Adelaide)
The Crows were copping their fair share of flak this time last year when Ryan Burton was in contention for the 2017 Rising Star award. After all, Adelaide had overlooked the South Australian in the 2015 draft, opting instead to select little-known Victorian Doedee, who didn’t appear at all at senior level in his first two seasons. Well, any concerns they may have had that the wrong call had been made were quickly allayed, with Doedee emerging as a dependable defender, effectively filling the gap left by Jake Lever. So much so that Crows full-back Daniel Talia cheekily suggested on radio only a month into the season that Doedee had outperformed Lever, who was traded to Melbourne at the end of last year.
Tom Doedee has had a stellar season.
Key numbers (Champion Data)
- Ranked 15th in the competition for intercept possessions per game.
- Ranked seventh in the competition for intercept possessions from rounds 15-22 before getting injured.
- Ranked third at Adelaide for intercept marks per game.
- Ranked third at Adelaide for rebound 50s per game.
Witherden, like Doedee, was recruited from the TAC Cup’s Geelong Falcons. It is little surprise the Lions defender enters the award as one of the favourites, as he was a fancy for the title as early as November last year. There was good reason, too, as Witherden played nine games in his debut season of 2017, impressing with outstanding ball use in defence. He remained eligible for the award this year, and didn’t miss a beat, playing 21 games and continuing to find plenty of the ball. He could well be the Lions’ main defensive architect for years to come.
Alex Witherden was already being talked about as a potential winner last year.
Key numbers (Champion Data)
- Ranked 11th in the competition for disposals per game by defenders with 22.4 (had 15 in each full match).
- Ranked No.1 at Brisbane for rebound 50s and second for disposals and uncontested possessions.
- Ranked sixth at Brisbane for intercept possessions and seventh for intercept marks.
- Took the third most kick-ins of any player in the AFL behind Shannon Hurn and Jake Lloyd.
Full list of 2018 nominees
Round one: Riley Bonner (Port Adelaide)
Round two: Tom Doedee (Adelaide)
Round three: Sam Murray (Collingwood)
Round four: Jaidyn Stephenson (Collingwood)
Round five: Ben Long (St Kilda)
Round six: Jake Waterman (West Coast)
Round seven: Jack Henry (Geelong)
Round eight: Ben Ronke (Sydney)
Round nine: Alex Witherden (Brisbane)
Round 10: Ed Richards (Western Bulldogs)
Round 11: Oliver Florent (Sydney)
Round 12: Brennan Cox (Fremantle)
Round 13: Hunter Clark (St Kilda)
Round 14: Paddy Dow (Carlton)
Round 15: Cam Rayner (Brisbane)
Round 16: Adam Cerra (Fremantle)
Round 17: Sam Taylor (GWS Giants)
Round 18: Jack Higgins (Richmond)
Round 19: Tom Cole (West Coast)
Round 20: Harry Morrison (Hawthorn)
Round 21: James Worpel (Hawthorn
Round 22: Aaron Francis (Essendon)
Round 23: Aaron Naughton (Western Bulldogs)
And just in case you thought the Rising Star was the be all and end all, here’s a team of players from the last 25 years who were eligible for the award but were never nominated.
B Matthew Boyd (Western Bulldogs) Daren Glass (West Coast) Kane Cornes (Port Adelaide)
HB Jarrad McVeigh (Sydney) Matthew Scarlett (Geelong) Anthony Koutoufides* (Carlton)
C Jason Akermanis (Brisbane Bears) Nick Dal Santo (St Kilda) Scott Thompson (Melbourne)
HF Brent Harvey (North Melbourne) Barry Hall (St Kilda) Steve Johnson (Geelong)
F Eddie Betts (Carlton) Drew Petrie (Kangaroos) Paul Chapman (Geelong)
Foll Dean Cox (West Coast) Gary Ablett (Geelong) Michael Voss* (Brisbane Bears)
Int Tyson Edwards (Adelaide) Ryan O’Keefe (Sydney) Nigel Lappin (Brisbane Bears) Simon Goodwin (Adelaide)
*Voss and Koutoufides both started their careers in 1992, before the award existed, but remained eligible in 1993.
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