19/04/2024

There are many deserving, young players who have yet to receive a NAB Rising Star nomination for this season. (Images: Collingwood FC/Twitter; Richmond FC/Twitter; sydneyswans.com.au)

With eight rounds left in the 2022 season, which young players will stake their claim to one of the remaining AFL Rising Star nominations?

For the AFL’s young players, the NAB Rising Star award has become the main award that showcases the best emerging talent in the competition. One nominee is selected for each round, pitting the 23 best young stars each season against each other, with the winner of the Rising Star award essentially being branded as the pick of the bunch.

Some brilliant players have been nominated for the award so far this season. These include Collingwood’s father-son superstar Nick Daicos, 2021 Hawthorn mid-season draftee Jai Newcombe, and Melbourne premiership player Jake Bowey, among others.

At this point, with around a third of the season to go, there aren’t enough spots left for all the players that deserve it. Many young stars have a case for a nomination if they maintain their form or find that one standout performance.

These are the players that have the best shot at claiming one of those finals nominations for the award this year.

Jake Soligo – Adelaide

After making his debut in the opening round of the season against the Dockers, Soligo didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first two games of football. He was subsequently dropped and didn’t make it back into the lineup until Round 9.

However, since rejoining the squad, Soligo has put together some great games for the club. His solid performances since returning have seen him comfortably retain his spot in the Crows’ side.

Soligo is averaging 14 disposals and 4.2 tackles a game since his return, as well as kicking five goals in that period. This is a far cry from the 3.5 disposals he averaged in the first two games this year. If he can continue to maintain this good form, he could easily be rewarded with a nomination by season’s end.

Jack Carroll – Carlton

Some Carlton fans would be disappointed that Carroll doesn’t have a nomination already given how he burst onto the scene with a huge performance against North Melbourne in round seven.

While Carroll racked up 19 disposals, eight marks, and a goal, the honour was instead given to North’s Jason Horne-Francis, who had 20 touches in his team’s 50-point defeat.

Carroll has since fallen out of the Blues midfield and, given how strong they have been, he will have to work hard to get back in. If he can earn a spot back in the Carlton squad then there’s always a chance he could claim a nomination. Carroll is always impressive at VFL level, so he’s surely not too low in the pecking order at the Ikon Park.

Jack Carroll receives a Powerade shower after his debut win with the Blues in Round 7. (Image: Carlton FC/Twitter)

Oliver Henry – Collingwood

There would surely be a nomination reserved for Ollie Henry at some point in the last eight rounds, with his form in the Collingwood forward line being nothing short of impressive as of late.

With 20 goals for the season (third in the team behind Brody Mihocek, and fellow Rising Star nominee Jack Ginnivan), Henry is proving to be an important player for the present and future of Collingwood. Not to mention 16 of those 20 goals this year have come in the second half of games, showing his ability to stand up when the game is on the line.

His clutch goal-kicking has contributed to some important wins for the Magpies. Some of his game saving moments will be appreciated even more if they are the difference between his side making finals and missing out by the skin of their teeth.

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Sam Durham – Essendon

Sam Durham has flown somewhat under the radar for the Bombers this season. Taking part in every game since the second round, except for the Round 8 win over Hawthorn where he missed with illness, Durham has been a great contributor for the club this year.

Having also played in Essendon’s last seven games of 2021, its fans would surely be pleased with how he has looked so far in his second season. Averaging 13.9 disposals a game at 83.8 per cent efficiency, he is becoming a very decent user of the football and will get even better with time.

Durham looks to be an important part of the Bombers’ future alongside a large group of other youngsters who are starting to get plenty of games under their belt. If he can keep up his good form, one of the eight remaining nominations could easily have his name on it.

Nathan O’Driscoll – Fremantle

There isn’t any certainty of when Nathan O’Driscoll will take the field again in 2022, with the original estimate of six weeks being extended as of late. However, his form prior to his foot injury that took him out after Round 8, was good enough to warrant some serious recognition.

Making his senior debut in the second round of this year, O’Driscoll had a permanent spot locked down in the Dockers’ squad by the time injury struck.

If he can make a return soon enough, he won’t necessarily be a front-runner for the award, but he’ll definitely be a chance at a nomination if he can recapture some of his form from earlier in the year.

At the very least, if he fails to make it back this year or only gets one or two more games under his belt, O’Driscoll may still be eligible for the award next season given he has only played seven times in 2022.

Malcolm Rosas – Gold Coast

With a good run of games since Round 7, Malcolm Rosas has taken advantage of his opportunity to showcase his ability for the Suns. He is a very good pressure forward who can tackle hard and attempt to force error from his opponents.

Averaging 3.2 tackles a game, and having laid seven on two different occasions, the 21-year-old will only get better and has the potential to become an elite defensive forward as he gets more experienced.

In the meantime, although he has scored three goals in two separate games this year and has been very impressive in doing so, Rosas hasn’t exactly had that one standout performance. If he can keep his place in the Gold Coast squad he will likely do that sooner rather than later, and he could definitely receive a nomination for it.

Malcolm Rosas has been impressive for the Gold Coast Suns in the last few weeks. (Image: goldcoastfc.com.au)

Cooper Hamilton – GWS Giants

Cooper Hamilton could be considered an outside chance, considering he hasn’t played an AFL game since the Giants’ Round 9 loss against Carlton. However, he played well in his three game stretch and would be pretty unlucky to not get another look in the side for the rest of the year.

A very good pressure midfielder, Hamilton’s tackling ability was on display, averaging 3.7 across the three games he played, along with 13.7 disposals at 82.9 per cent disposal efficiency.

Some would say it was unfortunate that Hamilton got dropped in the first place, and it’s unlikely he would be too far away from another appearance in 2022. Hopefully he can make his way back into the squad once again and show us all what he’s made of.

Sam Butler – Hawthorn

Another youngster who has managed to string together a few games at senior level, Sam Butler has looked very promising since his AFL debut in Round 9 against Richmond. Brother of Saints small forward, and former Richmond premiership player Dan, Butler looks to be a good future prospect in the Hawks forward line.

He’s already good for a goal almost every game, and he has the potential to be a very solid pressure forward as he gains more experience at Hawthorn.

While his performances haven’t been remarkable by any stretch, if he can stay in the team and maintain some consistency, he will only get better. He’s definitely an outside chance for a nomination if he can nab a few more goals and continue to improve in the second half of the year.

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Connor MacDonald – Hawthorn

If you ask any Hawthorn fan, Connor MacDonald has probably been the best of the club’s first-year players this season. A versatile player, with the ability to run through the midfield as well as contribute up forward, MacDonald is a valuable asset for the Hawks and will be a very good player in the future, wherever they choose to use him.

With 12 games under his belt in 2022, MacDonald has already seen some good game time and will continue to find himself in the Hawks lineup for the foreseeable future.

MacDonald seems to have adapted well to senior football, and is growing every week. He definitely could be rewarded with a nomination by the end of the season if he can remain consistent, and especially if he can increase his impact on games.

Paul Curtis – North Melbourne

A solid young prospect at the Kangaroos, Paul Curtis has often found himself in David Noble’s best 22 and has performed well in his first year. This is despite the struggles that the club has gone through as a whole.

Averaging 2.2 tackles and 16.6 pressure acts per game, Curtis fights hard for the footy which is promising. As the squad improves he will only improve with them, so the signs he has shown thus far are good ones.

If he can manage a breakout performance, Curtis will definitely be a chance at a nomination given he has been a regular for North in the last couple of months.

Josh Gibcus – Richmond

Josh Gibcus has seemingly gotten better every week at the Tigers. The key defender is arguably in the conversation already to finish quite well in the Rising Star ranks, and has staked his claim to a permanent spot in the Richmond backline.

With eight rounds left, you’d imagine he will keep his spot and play every week. Averaging 5.7 spoils, 3.9 marks, and 6.3 one percenters per game, these numbers will only grow as he ages.

Given his likely job security, and his decent form, Gibcus will surely be rewarded for his solid form this season, and receive one of the remaining nominations.

Josh Gibcus has made himself at home in the Richmond backline this season. (Image: richmondfc.com.au)

Hugo Ralphsmith – Richmond

A bright young star at Tigerland, Hugo Ralphsmith has shown some very promising signs this season for Richmond. Playing the first five games of the year, before suffering a rib injury, Ralphsmith made his way back into the senior side in Round 11 and has remained ever since.

He has proven to be good at attracting the football in a Richmond team with many impressive midfielders, averaging 14.8 disposals per game. His 11.8 pressure acts per game shows his ability on the defensive side as well.

It looks like Ralphsmith is a good chance to play for the rest of the year, and at his best he is very impactful. If he can keep up his form, he’s definitely a chance for a nomination.

Maurice Rioli. Jr – Richmond

Yet another Richmond young gun who has announced himself with some solid performances this season, Maurice Rioli Jr. has proven to be quite an impressive player.

He burst onto the scene in Round 9 where he had 14 touches, kicked three goals, and had nine score involvements in Richmond’s 109-point thumping of the West Coast Eagles.

Rioli has since played every game except one for the Tigers, the Round 13 clash against Port Adelaide, but has since made his way back into the side. His explosive style of play means he can capitalise at any given moment, and there are already plenty of moments in his highlight reel that prove this point.

If he can pull together another performance or two similar to his game against the Eagles, there’s a strong chance he’s in the running for a nomination by the end of the year.

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera – St Kilda

With some experience in St Kilda’s best 22, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera has shown to be a very skilful footballer. While he may not have impacted in the way that some other rookies have this year, he has played 12 games so far and that amount of game time will help his growth substantially.

He does seem to already be impacting more as time goes on, chalking up 22 possessions, three tackles, and 15 pressure acts against the Sydney Swans in Round 15.

While it was overshadowed by the club’s poor performance as a whole, if he can keep building on those numbers, he will surely start to stand out and he could easily state his case for a nomination.

Braeden Campbell – Sydney

Braeden Campbell got the nod quite early in the season last year, receiving a nomination for his 25 disposals and six marks in Sydney’s Round 2 win over Adelaide.

While he hasn’t quite replicated those numbers on a consistent basis this season, Campbell has still managed 11 games and could retain his spot for the rest of this year. He won’t be eligible for the Rising Star for a third time next season so this is his last chance.

His best game this year, where he collected 21 touches, five marks, and five tackles against North Melbourne in Round 4, could have easily warranted a nomination, and he hasn’t hit those heights since then.

Campbell has still been showing good signs though and if he can have a few good games towards the end of this year, he will definitely be considered once again.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan – Western Bulldogs

Pick one from the 2020 AFL Draft, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan definitely needs a mention here. He hasn’t exactly been setting the football world on fire, but the expectation on him since he was drafted has been pretty sizeable.

With Josh Bruce soon coming back into the AFL side, Ugle-Hagan’s time is now. He can keep his spot with some solid performances in the back end of this year, but if he’s not up to scratch he could easily be the one to make way when the Bulldogs’ forward line is back to full strength.

Some consistency in the side given he missed eight weeks between Rounds 6 and 14, as well as a boost in form, could definitely see him receive one of the remaining nominations. Not to mention it would do wonders for his confidence.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan has had a slow start to his career, but still has plenty of potential. (Image: westernbulldogs.com.au)

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