EVERY club is excited with the young talent in their team and with round one approaching we have taken a look at which players could step up and progress from the under 18s – or their first season in the AFL – and be the standout young talent at the elite level. From an already premiership player to a few top five five draft picks, there is no shortage of contenders for the 2018 AFL Rising Star Award and here are a few to look out for this year.
The Richmond young gun was picked at number 53 in the 2016 AFL National Draft and has already had one year of experience in the AFL, remarkably winning a premiership with the Tigers which will help him to thrive and play to his absolute best in the Richmond midfield. He was a standout in the Grand Final, kicking three goals, while keeping Adelaide star Rory Sloane quiet. Graham is one of the favourites to take out the 2018 AFL Rising Star award, and it would be surprising not to see him at least poll some votes from the judges at the end of the season.
Carlton’s prized number three draft pick in last years draft, Paddy Dow from the Bendigo Pioneers is another one of the favourites tipped to win the 2018 AFL Rising Star Award. The young blue has the full package in he is a powerful, classy midfielder who can impact the scoreboard. He is a huge accumulator of the ball and knows how perform on the big stage. He showcased some of what he has to offer during both AFLX and the JLT Community Series. Dow’s long repertoire of skills will be on display, and is primed to play and be a young leader in a young up-and-coming side.
Collingwood have found themselves a player that has some X-factor with pick six in last year’s draft. The former Eastern Ranges enigma is a great runner who is both quick and has the tank to run out four quarters of footy . He was a playmaker during the TAC Cup in 2017, averaging 5.2 inside 50s and 3.9 clearances, and was a danger every time he went up forward, something Collingwood is hoping he can do in 2018. His X-factor trait is the explosiveness in Stephenson game style, which will likely see him up in the top 10 of the AFL Rising Star Award.
Oliver Florent was picked by Sydney Swans in the 2016 AFL National Draft with pick 11. After only playing a handful of games in 2017, Florent is still eligible to win the Rising Star in 2018. The former Dragon is a lively half-forward who can make something out of nothing. At the 2016 AFL Draft Combine he recorded the equal highest beep test (15.1) Florent will fit in nicely to a regenerating Swans side, and add another dimension to an already star forward line with Buddy Franklin and Isaac Heeney.
North Melbourne’s Luke Davies-Uniacke from the Dandenong Stingrays, was picked with the fourth pick in the 2017 AFL National Draft. He is a classy player with all the characteristics of an contested ball winning and game breaking midfielder. Davies-Uniacke wins the ball similar to Sydney’s Josh Kennedy and models his marking on Luke Parker. North Melbourne’s Recruiting Officer Ben Birthisel, said Davies-Uniacke is “really good at accumulating the footy around the ground and his ability to consistently stand-up in big games has really made him stand-out amongst this year’s group. His elimination final against Eastern Ranges was super, and he’s another who’s gone forward and hit the scoreboard and is strong overhead.” Look to see him in the top three in the Rising Star award.
Brisbane’s prized number one draft pick, Cam Rayner from the Western Jets, is another who will see plenty of game time in the 2017. His game style is compared to Richmond star Dustin Martin. Andrew Hamilton from the Courier Mail compares Rayner to ‘Dusty’ “because of his explosiveness and brutal fend-off.” Rayner had the nickname “Hollywood” at his Junior football club, Hillside, because of his “goalkicking flair”. So with his ability to impress, expect him at seasons end to be in the top three vote-getters of the AFL Rising Star Award.
Lions young gun Alex Witherden was selected by Brisbane with pick number 23 in the 2016 AFL National Draft. Witherden played nine of the final ten games for the season, only missing Round 21 because of injury. He was a standout in his first season in defence at the Lions, and especially in his debut match against the GWS Giants in Round 14 “where he collected 20 disposals, 12 kicks and seven marks.” In his impressive debut season, Witherden “averaged 23.6 disposals, 15.9 kicks and 5.3 marks” and therefore he was 17th “on the 2017 Rising Star Nomination tally.” In 2018, he is tipped to finish in the top two of the AFL Rising Star award. If Witherden plays the whole season and continues with his great form in defence from 2017, he will take out the AFL Rising Star Award or at least in the top five because he will be playing against other very young talented superstars.
Sandringham Dragons’ Andrew Brayshaw was taken by Fremantle with pick two in last year’s National Draft. Brayshaw’s is renowned for being “a hard worker, neat user of the ball and a superb decision maker.” His kicking is top notch and in the TAC Cup he averaged nearly seven tackles a game. Brayshaw is a versatile player who can have a significant impact whichever position he plays in, as he can not only play in the midfield, but can play as a half-back flanker and move forward when required. He had a great AFL National Draft Combine, where he showcased a rare mix of speed and elite endurance capping off an outstanding 2017 season. Look to see Brayshaw in the top five of the AFL Rising Star award, due to his versatility as a player and his incredible footy IQ .