The AFL Rising Star award acknowledges the premiership’s best new talent. After every round a panel of experts nominates a player aged 20 or younger (as of 1 January) who had played 10 games or fewer at the start of the season. The panel dishes out votes for their top five rookies at the end of the season to determine the AFL Rising Star winner.
After Nathan Buckley was crowned the inaugural AFL Rising Star winner in 1993, a host of fellow future AFL greats have claimed the award. The likes of Ben Cousins, Adam Goodes, Nick Riewoldt, Sam Mitchell, Brett Deledio, Joel Selwood and Dan Hannebery have been named the AFL’s most promising colt. Carlton’s Sam Walsh took out the gong in 2019.
According to the AFL Rising Star odds, Gold Coast Suns sensation Matt Rowell was an unbackable AFL Rising Star betting favourite just four rounds into the season. But a long-term injury suffered in round 5 has left the award wide open.
Check out how the top 2020 Rising Star contenders are stacking up a month into the 2020 season.
MATT ROWELL: INJURY CRUELS SUN’S HOPES
Pundits and fans – especially those of the Gold Coast Suns variety – were losing their minds over wiry midfielder Matt Rowell, who only turned 19 on 1 July.
The number-one pick in November’s AFL draft, Rowell made an impressive debut in Gold Coast’s round 1 loss to Port Adelaide. But he exploded after the restart, racking up two goals and 20-plus disposals in each of the surprise-packet Suns’ trio of wins over West Coast, Adelaide and Fremantle.
Rowell earned the AFL Rising Star nomination for round 2 and collected the maximum 10 votes in three straight games for the AFL Coaches Association’s Champion Player Award. He was also being touted as a genuine Brownlow Medal threat.
As a result, the teenager was regarded as a lay-down misère to add his name to the AFL Rising Star winners list – reflected by his tiny AFL Rising Star odds after four rounds – and become just the fourth player after Jared Rivers (2004), Daniel Rich (2009) and Dan Hannebery (2010) to attract maximum votes at the end of the season.
But a serious shoulder injury – likely to be season-ending – in round 5 has slowed Rowell’s roll, and only a miraculous return to the field can rescue his chances of clinching the gong.
— AFL (@AFL) July 4, 2020
Izak Rankine: Sun rises after teammate’s misfortune
Coming into the Gold Coast line-up in round 6 for the injured Rowell, Izak Rankine has surged into Rising Star betting favouritism in just four matches.
The 20-year-old midfielder picked up a nomination after a mesmerising three-goal debut against Melbourne, then starred again with two majors against Sydney a week later.
Rankine’s instinctive brilliance has ensured the Suns remain mid-table despite the absence of new linchpin Rowell.
Izak Rankine’s three goals in his debut game 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/lp1YYrTH5k
— 7AFL (@7AFL) July 11, 2020
Caleb Serong: silver lining in Freo’s tough season
It’s been a trying campaign for Fremantle Dockers – winning only three of their first nine games – but 19-year-old midfielder Caleb Serong’s emergence has been a reason for optimism.
Drafted as the eighth selection of the AFL draft at the end of last year, Serong debuted in round 4 and contributed to the club’s three wins in its following five games. He has grown in stature with each outing, picking up a Rising Star nomination after grabbing a goal and 22 disposals in Freo’s round 8 loss to Geelong. A week later he racked up 24 disposals in an upset of Collingwood, elevating him to the third line of Rising Star betting.
— Fremantle Dockers (@freodockers) August 2, 2020
MAX KING: STRONG START FOR SAINTS
Ben King, a 2019 Rising Star nominee, is playing a key role in Gold Coast Suns’ resurgence, and his twin brother Max is having a similar impact at St Kilda Saints – as well as making an impression on the 2020 Rising Star award.
King was the Saints’ top pick (fourth overall) in the 2018 draft after he cut his teeth with Sandringham Dragons in the TAC Cup, but he was prevented from making his AFL debut last year by a frustrating knee injury. But the 19-year-old made up for lost time with two goals in his first outing in the top flight – St Kilda’s narrow loss to North Melbourne in round 1.
King has kicked 14 goals in the first nine games of his rookie campaign for the rapidly improving Saints. Despite not yet picking up a Rising Star nomination, he was on the third line of betting for the award as of 5 August.
A career-high three goals for Max King 🤴 pic.twitter.com/Lf2bCyRAYb
— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) August 2, 2020
Mitch Georgiades: powering into contention
Still only 18, Mitch Georgiades is yet another reason for fans of ladder-leading Port Adelaide Power to smile.
The Subiaco product kicked two goals on debut against Gold Coast in round 1 before COVID-19 disrupted his progress. Eventually returning to the Power’s line-up in round 8, Georgiades kicked a goal in a loss to St Kilda before picking up the round 9 Rising Star nomination courtesy of a three-goal display in a win over Melbourne.
— Riley Beveridge (@RileyBev) July 30, 2020
CONNOR BUDARICK: OVERSHADOWED IN THE SUNS
Pre-selected by Gold Coast in October via the academy system, local junior Connor Budarick would be generating more hype if not for the mind-blowing performances of teammates Matt Rowell and Izak Rankine, the former and new favourite, respectively, to be the AFL Rising Star winner.
The defender/midfielder was still a couple of weeks away from turning 19 when he debuted alongside Rowell in the Suns’ round 1 loss to the Power. He grabbed the 2020 Rising Star nomination in round 3 after kicking a goal and taking six marks among his 16 disposals in a victory over the Crows.
Budarick has featured in each of the first nine rounds and was on the sixth line of Rising Star betting as of 5 August.
Connor Budarick deserved one, so he got one.
— AFL (@AFL) June 21, 2020
TOM GREEN: YOUNG STAR AMONG GIANTS
Tall midfielder Tom Green picked up the 2020 Rising Star nomination for round 4 after notching 18 disposals and kicking a goal in GWS Giants’ victory over Collingwood.
It was the 19-year-old’s first appearance since debuting in round 1 and the first of three straight games in the Giants’ line-up, but he hasn’t been sighted since round 6.
Western Bulldogs great Brad Johnson made the stunning claim that Green – the 10th-overall pick in the draft – could be the AFL’s best player within five years. While that may be hyperbolic, he’s certainly an AFL Rising Star betting smoky if he can force his way back into GWS’s top team.
Tom Green is the latest NAB AFL Rising Star nominee after an impressive performance against the Magpies.https://t.co/eCc5pRzsok
— AFL.com.au (@AFLcomau) June 29, 2020
AFL RISING STAR TIPS
Our prediction to win the 2020 AFL Brownlow Medal ahead of round 11: