With 57 debutants for the season, and each club at least having one new player make their way into their side’s 22 after round nine, we take a look at each club and determine which of the youngsters have starred for your team.
Adelaide: Riley Thilthorpe
Debuted: round six. Drafted: pick two, 2020 national draft.
It took a few weeks for Adelaide to unleash last year’s pick number two, but it was worth the wait. A five-goal haul from the debutant in Adelaide’s Anzac Day clash against Hawthorn was just shy of beating the Hawk’s Jacob Koschitzke of a Rising Star nomination.
His performance though has him named the best debutant by a Crows player, with three of his goals kicked in a five-minute burst in the second quarter, and the five total the best by any debutante for the side.
With an average of 10.8 disposals, 2.3 goals and an 81.1 per cent goal accuracy across his four games, Thilthorpe has so far lived up to his high pick in the draft and will keep his spot in the side.
Brisbane: Jaxon Prior
Debuted: round two. Drafted: pick 59, 2019 national draft.
In his last minute call up to debut back in round two, Jaxon Prior managed nine disposals against Geelong. The hybrid defender has the ability to move up into the midfield and convert on the scoreboard if necessary.
In his seven games, Prior has scored five goals yet averaging only nine disposals. The 20-year-old who was drafted to the Lions back in 2019 still require a little more work to be able to cement a position in the Lion’s side, but is showing promising signs of the versatility he will provide in years to come.
Carlton: Luke Parks
Debuted: round three. Drafted: 2021 rookie draft.
The only Carlton player to make his debut this year, Parks has strung together five games for the Blues, impressing most in his game against Essendon after returning from a hamstring injury. Parks had the MCG in a roar when he laid a tackle on Essendon’s Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, shifting the momentum of the game into Carlton’s favour.
Parks is strong-bodied and willing to get among the action with hard tackles, averaging 2.4 per game. His aerial work is also notable, with his ability to contest the ball no matter its height.
Collingwood: Beau McCreery
Debuted: round three (unused substitute). Drafted: pick 44, 2020 national draft.
Collingwood have debuted six players so far in 2021 after another rough start to the year with injuries. Although not playing in his first game against the Lions, Beau McCreery’s impact was immediate the following week against GWS, kicking the opening goal of the match, and laying eight tackles: seven of them inside-50.
McCreery has since been a pressure-adder for the Pies, averaging an elite ranking of 4.4 tackles and one goal per match, including three on Anzac Day. The medium-sized forward still has some work to do when it comes to actually getting the ball, but that will come with more game time which is guaranteed for the time being.
Essendon: Nikolas Cox
Debuted: round one. Drafted: pick eight, 2020 national draft.
Like the Pies, Essendon have also debuted six players so far in 2021, but the Bombers hold the upper hand on their talented mix of youngsters playing consistent football.
It’s Nik Cox however who has impressed the most for the Bombers and looks most likely to be the side’s contender of winning the Rising Star this year – once he actually secures a nomination. His height of 200cm allows him the versatility of being a key positioned player, but his agility also matches up to the requirements of a midfielder.
He starred against Sydney with his agility on display, played his part in the ruck, kicked a very nice running goal on his non-preferred and was pushed down back to help defend when required.
Cox was the medical sub for round nine, in an attempt to manage his game time, playing only half the game against Fremantle, but is expected to return in round 10.
Fremantle: Heath Chapman
Debuted: round two. Drafted: pick 14, 2020 national draft.
Most impressive in Fremantle’s round three loss against Carlton, Heath Chapman picked up 18 disposals at an incredible 88.9 per cent in only his second game. Down back, he was able to collect eight intercept marks and five rebound 50s.
Across his six appearances, Chapman averaged 14.2 disposals, 8.3 marks and 5.8 handballs, proving his work rate as a key defender, and getting the ball back into the hands of his side.
However, Chapman’s debut season was cut short in the Western Derby, after dislocating his shoulder and requiring shoulder stabilisation surgery. Fremantle fans will now need to wait until 2022 to see the youngster back in action.
Geelong: Max Holmes
Debuted: round three. Drafted: pick 20, 2020 national draft.
It’s quite tough to break into the current Cats side, but of the three debutants this year, Max Holmes has been most successful in playing three games for the season to date.
Holmes made his debut in the Cats biggest home and away fixture; the Easter Monday clash against Hawthorn after standing out in the VFL.
Holmes was drafted as a long-term prospect, so it may be a while before he becomes a regular in the top level side, but will add a mix of an outside runner but also deep in midfield duties.
Gold Coast: Malcolm Rosas Jnr
Debuted: round nine. Drafted: pick 37, 2019 rookie draft.
Malcolm Rosas Jnr is the first and only debutant for the Gold Coast Suns, who was unleashed in QClash20. It was a quiet debut for the slick forward, who had six touches of the footy.
Rosas Jnr is the first player to come through the Sun’s Academy zone in Darwin in 2019 and is self-proclaimed as not being the most confident player. Here’s hoping that changes for the 19-year-old and that his incredible speed and ball skill will secure him a weekly spot.
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Greater Western Sydney: Matt Flynn
Debuted: round one. Drafted: pick 41, 2015 national draft.
In Matt Flynn’s first AFL game, he proved that while injured ruckman Braydon Preuss is sidelined, he’d be able to step up and fill in the role. Flynn had 34 hit outs and 18 disposals in his debut, with an 88 per cent efficiency, a number impressive for any ruckman.
Against arguably the best ruckman in the league, Flynn was able to play a reasonable game against Max Gawn, managing 24 hit outs, with 11 to advantage and three tackles and 18 pressure acts across the ground.
Flynn doesn’t obtain the biggest of numbers but it’s his ability to hit out to advantage, and the hit outs he does win that makes him an exciting ruckman to watch.
Hawthorn: Jacob Koschitzke
Debuted: round one. Drafted: pick 52, 2018 national draft.
Jacob Koschitzke finally secured himself in Hawthorn’s senior side in his third year on its list after a significant list review over the last couple of years.
Koschitzke earned himself the round six Rising Star nomination for his 5.3, 14 disposal performance against Adelaide after the panel selected his performance over Thilthorpe’s five goals on the day.
While the rest of his performances have not been as memorable as his outing against Adelaide, Koschitzke averages 10 touches a match, and 4.5 marks along with a goal on the scoreboard.
Melbourne: James Jordan
Debuted: round one. Drafted: pick 33, 2018 national draft.
After missing out in 2019 and 2020 to debut, James Jordan finally ran out for Melbourne in round one, and has played in all nine games of 2021.
Jordan is the second Demon to earn a Rising Start nomination; his in round eight after picking up 23 disposals and eight tackles against his side’s win against the Swans. His performance was declared well deserved by Demon’s midfield coach Adem Yze, who said the 20-year-old’s work rate was eye-catching from day one.
“Everything he’s receiving, the accolades – he’s getting what he deserves. He puts a lot of work into his training,” Yze said on The Talking Points.
“He’s probably our most honest player. You will see him in defence helping out our defenders, and then you’ll see him up the other end kicking goals.”
North Melbourne: Tom Powell
Debuted: round one. Drafted: pick 13, 2020 national draft.
Another of the debutants to play all nine games of 2021, Tom Powell has been a consistent ball magnet for North Melbourne, averaging 17.9 disposals – a quality that had North eyeing him off at under 18s level. The best part of Powell’s ability to find the football though is his ability to use it effectively.
Kangaroo’s development coach and AFL games record holder Brent Harvey has worked closely with Powell and believes he is one of the best first-year players he’s seen.
“His hands are as good as I’ve seen for a first-year player, and I’m talking about everybody who has come through the system,” Harvey told North Melbourne Football Club.
Powell is unlucky so far to have a Rising Star nomination, but for the 19-year-old, it’s only an arms-reach away if he continues the current form, he is in.
Port Adelaide: Miles Bergman
Debuted: round one. Drafted: pick 14, 2019 national draft.
Miles Bergman now has eight games under his belt for Port Adelaide after not being able to play any SANFL football in 2020 due to COVID-19 and failing to be named any more than an emergency in the AFL side.
Recruited as a midfield/forward, Bergman spent last year studying the ropes of being a pivotal role in defence, regularly meeting with the backline group while he also recovered from an ankle injury.
Since debuting, Bergman has averaged 13 disposals, and 4.4 marks, proving his reliability to attract the football. Although not racking up huge numbers each week, his consistent football is enough to keep him a contender for selection each week.
Richmond: Riley Collier-Dawkins
Debuted: round seven. Drafted: pick 20, 2018 national draft.
Debuting in his third year on Richmond’s list proves the depth the side’s list has, but it took only his first game for Riley Collier-Dawkins to make an impact. In his first game against the Western Bulldogs, Collier-Dawkins notched up 14 disposals, including 11 contested possessions. Added to this was his five tackles and five clearances, proving he’s capable of providing that Tigers pressure.
With the absence of Richmond’s main midfield group against the Giants in round nine, Collier-Dawkins stepped up, impressing with 18 disposals, four clearances and a team-best three centre clearances.
The patient wait for an AFL debut has proven to be the right move for the 20-year-old who will now have time to truly prove his worthiness of a midfield positions among some of Richmond’s best.
St. Kilda: Tom Highmore
Debuted: round one. Drafted: pick 45, 2020 national draft.
Tom Highmore has made three appearances for St. Kilda and has impressed with his applied pressure around the ground. Average 4 tackles and 7 handballs per match, Highmore is reliable among the contests.
Highmore has impressed in the VFL this year, continually being one of the Saints best on ground, and pushing for the senior side selection. Against Box Hill, Highmore racked up 30 disposals and 14 marks despite the added attention he then received after half time.
Time is the key for the mature-aged draft pick, and once he does secure a regular position in the Saints 22, it’ll be hard to take him back out.
Sydney: Errol Gulden
Debuted: round one. Drafted: pick 32, 2020 national draft.
Errol Gulden has been influential for the Swans the moment he ran out for the club against the Lions back in round one. His round one performance of 19 disposals and three goals earnt him the first Rising Star nomination for 2021.
He back up his performance in round two, collecting 22 disposals and a goal against the Crows. Champion Data statistics hailed the forward has having two of the best games ever recorded by a debutante.
Although Gulden has only kicked one more goal since round two, his ability to attract the ball is impressive. Averaging 15.3 disposals, with an elite ranking of 10.6 kicks and 5.3 marks, the QBE Sydney Swans Academy product again impresses the wider AFL community on the talent being produced by the Swans.
West Coast Eagles: Isiah Winder
Debuted: round four. Drafted: pick 57, 2020 national draft.
West Coast is the last of the four sides to have only one debutant for 2021: it’s in Isiah Winder who unfortunately has not played since his debut against the Western Bulldogs. However, it’s a debut he will always remember, kicking a goal among one of the best forward lines in the competition.
A snap across the body, 20 metres out after receiving the handball from Josh Kennedy was the set up needed for the 18-year-old to kick his first AFL goal. With only five disposals though for the match, a little bit more time in the twos will go a long way for this exciting medium-sized forward.
Western Bulldogs: Anthony Scott
Debuted: round one. Drafted: 2020 pre-season supplemental selection.
Anthony Scott sits alongside Lachlan McNeil in having played all nine games for the season. No stranger the Whitten Oval, Scott previously played for Footscray before filling in the vacant spot left by the retired Sam Llyod.
With handy match averages of 11.6 disposals, 6.2 handballs and 2 tackles, Scott is proving reliable as a medium-sized forward and the right decision made by the Bulldog’s team selectors back in round one to be picked over Jason Johannisen for a spot in the senior side.
Although a tough midfield to break into, Scott has also shown versatility of being able to move up field, and with the likes of Josh Dunkley and Lin Jong out long term with injuries, Scott will have more opportunity to move across the ground.
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