With past winners including Brownlow Medallists Nathan Buckley (1993), Ben Cousins (1996), Adam Goodes (1999) and Sam Mitchell (2012) and elite players such as Nick Riewoldt and Joel Selwood, the NAB Rising Star award has been an incredible indicator of success in the AFL.
The Rising Star has not been restricted to individual success with no fewer than 8 of the 24 winners going on to win an AFL Premiership.
We take a look at the favourites for this year’s award
RYAN BURTON – HAWTHORN ($1.40)
Burton has signed with the Hawks until 2020 and will form a dangerous combination with Tom Mitchell as the next generation of elite players at Hawthorn.
Nominated in round 2, Burton has been a disposal magnet averaging just over 21 touches a game out of defence and ranked 1st amongst the Rising Stars in disposals, kicks, rebound 50’s, intercepts and total metres gained.
Burton has been incredibly consistent across a difficult season for the Hawks.
ANDREW MCGRATH – ESSENDON ($3.00)
The Bombers defender made headlines with his smothering role on superstar small forward Eddie Betts when Essendon lost to the Crows recently. Whilst keeping Betts scoreless, McGrath had an impact himself with 25 disposals and 5 rebound 50’s.
Averaging just under 20 disposals per game, McGrath is ranked 2nd in total disposals and 1st for total handballs. Most importantly McGrath has been efficient ranked 2nd in total effective disposals, although he is behind Burton who has also had plenty of the football this season.
SAM POWELL-PEPPER – PORT ADELAIDE ($6.00)
Nominated in the first round of the season, the Port Adelaide midfielder has dominated in the centre helping to transition the ball into attack with the 2nd most inside 50’s amongst the Rising Stars.
Ranked 1st in total contested possessions, total clearances and total centre clearances amongst the Rising Stars, Powell Pepper has averaged 17 disposals and just shy of a goal from his first 20 matches.
Whilst he had a great start to the year, Powell-Pepper has been quiet in two of the biggest games for the Power, against the Giants in round 4 and recently against the Crows where he conceded 5 free kicks and had just 6 touches.
CHARLIE CURNOW – CARLTON ($9.00)
The fifth Blues player to earn a nomination this season, Curnow had to wait until round 16 when he had 19 disposals in Carlton’s loss to the Demons. The young forward has strengthened as an outside chance for the Rising Star award after a dominant display against the Hawks last weekend where he had 22 touches and a goal in their 7 point win.
Ranked number 1 amongst the Rising Stars in total inside 50’s for the season and inside 50’s per game, Curnow has had a big influence in the Blues forward line ranked 2nd in total goal assists and presenting a big target as the top ranked player for contested marks.
Burton is the clear favourite and his defensive impact at Hawthorn in what has been a tough season cannot be underestimated. If McGrath played a different position you could make an argument about impact in the forward line/back line or even the midfield but because they have been playing in the same area it is hard to go past Burton who has just been that little bit better.
All 4 favourites have had tremendous years and with as many as 8 potentially playing finals football. Punters can look forward to seeing how the 2017 Rising Star nominees handle the big stage in September.