PADDY Dow earned the Rising Star nomination, while names that have featured in this column a number of times, again stood out for their respective teams in Round 14 of the AFL.
The Essendon utility has been one of the most consistent of the recent draftees, having again contributed nicely in his sides upset triumph on the road over West Coast. Guelfi chipped in with 13 disposals, six of which were contested, at a solid 62 per cent disposal efficiency. He slotted a major and maintained his impressive forward pressure, laying six tackles. The Western Australian has proven to be a nice late-draft pickup for the Bombers pushing up from the half-forward line and playing on the wing.
Bayley Fritsch showcased some of his most valuable assets in the Melbourne’s close loss to Port Adelaide last Friday night. His terrific, clean hands overhead and elite leap allowed him to clunk another haul of five marks, to go with five tackles and 13 disposals at a terrific disposal efficiency of 85 per cent. Although he wasn’t able to hit the scoreboard, it was impressive to see Fritsch still make an impact on the game through his neat foot skills, relentless presentation, along with his tackling pressure. The dynamic medium-tall also had two clearances and gained 358 metres.
After debuting in round one and playing the first eight games of the season, the top 10 draft pick was moved to the forward line on Saturday night where he kicked his first two goals at AFL level. Naughton, who had missed the previous four weeks with an ankle complaint, collected 81 per cent of his ten possessions in the Bulldogs forward 50. Not only did he take a couple of big contested grabs, he also followed up nicely at ground level, which will have no-doubt impressed coach Luke Beveridge. Having shown great potential at both ends of the ground, it will be interesting to see where he plays his football once the Bulldogs regain a number of players.
Following up on his terrific three-goal performance in wet conditions against the Power, Richards again showed some exciting signs. He amassed 13 disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal, but also collected nine contested possessions on the weekend. Richards dash, foot skills, and ability to play on the wing across half-back or forward, are traits that will generate a bit of excitement at Whitten Oval. It certainly looks as if the Dogs have a winner in Ed Richards.
The current favourite for the NAB Rising Star award, Jaidyn Stephenson further enhanced his case with another three majors in Collingwood’s 20-point win over Carlton. Winning 87 per cent of his touches up forward through his role as a third-tall option, Stephenson had just the eight disposals, but maximised the impact of each touch by finishing with a disposal efficiency of 88 per cent. His aerial prowess was again evident, taking five marks and having six score involvements. Having now booted 21 goals in 13 games, Stephenson has already exceeded the first-year expectations of many draft watchers.
The top five pick has been building form for some time and finally earned the recognition through a Rising Star nomination. The classy midfielder had 20 disposals, two marks, four tackles, four clearances and three inside 50s, with nine of his possessions won in a contest. He played a balanced role and negotiated his way through traffic well, and showed off his trademark acceleration and top vision under pressure. Expect plenty more to come from Dow as the season progresses.