Archie Perkins has made it three Bombers in the last six rounds to claim a Rising Star nomination for 2021.
He did so under the bright lights of Friday night footy, kicking three goals and contributing nine score involvements in his 18 disposals. In his best game at the level, the 19-year-old equalled Adelaide’s score for the game off of his own boot.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday after the Rising Star announcement, Archie Perkins admitted it was a good reward for hard work after his young gun teammates Nik Cox and Harrison Jones received the accolade in recent weeks.
“It’s obviously nice to get a bit of recognition for all the hard work and dedication I’ve put into the year,” he said.
Don the fast-tracked rebuild
Perkins, Cox and Jones have become the faces of an Essendon youth movement that has enjoyed many more highs than lows this season. Cox is in heavy contention for the award and is leading the draft class of 2020 for impact in his first year.
It’s a group that Perkins is excited to develop with for the next decade at the Dons.
”Those two getting it before me has put a bit of pressure on me to get mine, but nah there’s no rivalry or competition or anything.
”It’s really good that the bulk of our team is really young and haven’t played many games either.
”It’s exciting that over the coming years you’ll see that – a lot of improvement – because we’re all young.
“There’s going to be a lot of growth left in us and that’s exciting for Bombers fans that are going to see that first hand, so it’s really good to be a part of.”
Both he and Cox – along with developing tall Zach Reid – were drafted with top-10 picks out of Victoria. Those two hadn’t played a competitive game of football in close to 10 months due to Covid-19.
It was a show of faith from Adrian Dodoro and his recruiting staff that was immediately questioned, with players from other states that had played during the year touted to go around that mark and still on the board.
Despite the lack of football in one of the most important developmental years of their careers, Perkins and Cox have become mainstays in the Dons lineup week-in, week-out.
The task in front of Perkins to play senior footy for the Bombers straight away presented itself in the pre-season.
“More in the pre-season they ease us into it a little bit after we really got no footy last year.
“That took a while to get adjusted to the rigours and demands of AFL footy but once I debuted I was pretty well into the program and everything so I haven’t had too many issues so far.”
The youngsters and fringe players brought in – such as Nick Hind – have the Dons on the precipice of a top-eight spot. They sit just one game outside with a healthy percentage, and Perkins is confident they can beat any side on their day.
“We’ve got a great belief within in our group that we’re capable of beating any team in the competition.
“It doesn’t matter where they are on the ladder so we know that if we turn up and play our way and our game style that we’re going to go a long way to winning a lot of games of footy.
“So there’s no real internal discussion about motivating us through the prospect of finals at this stage but I’m sure that all the players in there, and me as well, will be really excited by it – by that prospect of playing finals footy.
“But we are just going to take it one week at a time and, yeah, focus on this week first.”
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Perkins the midfield bull
Since his opportunity in round three, Perkins hasn’t come out of the side. Six wins and six losses later, he’s become a highlight of Essendon’s high scoring forward line each week.
The big-bodied youngster rarely loses his footing and maintains his balance and composure in tackles to free his hands.
He flies high for marks on the lead, positions himself at the feet of key forwards and makes his tackles stick.
Essendon supporters love his appetite for the contest and have seen him grow with each game as he begins to understand what he’s capable of on the field.
For Perkins, improving his game is all about raising the floors of his poor matches and becoming a more consistent player.
“I think it’ll probably be consistency is the first thing.
“I’ve had a few good games this year but also some really quiet ones, so just bridging the gap between my best and worst games first and foremost. I’d like to do that.
“Then from there probably getting the most bang for my buck with my possessions, kicking a few more goals and then hopefully playing more midfield in the future.”
That will be the catalyst for his eventual move into the midfield, which could come sooner than expected.
He’s currently averaging 13.5 disposals and has kicked five goals as a forward. Perkins intends to make that transition to the contest as soon as he can.
“I think my best position is midfield, but also my versatility is something I’m pretty proud of – that I can play midfield, play forward and have an impact in both areas of the ground.
With Kyle Langford set to miss the next two to three weeks, the midfield becomes sparse after Darcy Parish, Zach Merrett and Jake Stringer.
All of Andrew McGrath, Jye Caldwell and Dylan Shiel are still sidelined, which may give Rising Star nominee Archie Perkins an opportunity. It’s a chance that he would love to get.
“I don’t really know what the coaches are thinking they’re gonna do with that [Langford’s midfield time] yet, but yeah I’d definitely be open to playing a bit more in the midfield.”
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