The West Coast Eagles finished ninth on the ladder in season 2021. They won six of their opening nine games of the season. After 13 games they had won eight and lost five games.
The odds on the 2020 Rising Star have fluctuated since the start of the year.
They rose and fell on the back of the explosion of Matt Rowell and then his unfortunate injury. After five games he was the certain favourite to take out the best first-year player award, such was his dominance. However, after his shoulder injury, the field opened right up, and we now have quite a number of contenders for this coveted prize.
The Rising Star award comes with certain pressures. It highlights your ability as a first-year player, someone who has been able to make a consistent impact in their first year of football. However, it also places undue pressure to perform in the following years.
But cast your eye over the previous winners since the award’s 1993 inception and you’ll see those who win it are among some of the best footballers this game has seen, including Nathan Buckley (1993), Adam Goodes (1999), Nick Riewoldt (2002), Sam Mitchell (2003) and Joel Selwood (2007).
After 14 rounds and with only four remaining the talent vying for this year’s Rising Star is as good as in any year. Which camp do you sit in? Who wins the 2020 Rising Star?
Introducing our first contender. He wears the number 22 for the Gold Coast Suns and since his first game has excited those who have seen him play with flashes of brilliance and some extraordinary displays of talent. Izak Rankine is a popular choice based on these moments of skills.
Rankine is averaging 1.2 goals and 2.8 marks a game along with 12 disposals. His role as a small forward means he will not be a high accumulator, but his impact has been clearly seen. His nomination came after the Round 6 game against Melbourne, in which his collect, sidestep and snap over his shoulder will be one of the highlights of the year.
The second contender has moved a long way. Originally from Gippsland, he moved to Geelong for his senior years at school then flew to the other side of the country to play for Fremantle. Caleb Serong was pick No. 8 for the Dockers and was nominated after the Round 8 clash with Geelong. This game was played in a torrential downpour, and he matched it in the middle with the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan and Cameron Guthrie. Caleb’s ten-game season has seen him average 15 disposals, two marks and four tackles a game.
The next contender, Noah Anderson, has managed to play every game this season. For the most part he’s played in a wing-half-forward role and has put forward a strong case for the Rising Star. Averaging 15 disposals, three marks and two tackles a game, his stats are eerily similar to those of Serong. Anderson’s nomination came in Round 7, which saw him play an important role against the Swans. His kicking skills were excellent that day, as was his hard running. Arguably his best game came in the Round 12 defeat to the Tigers in which he was still able to collect 26 touches.
These three fine young footballers are the leading contenders, but nipping at their heels are the likes of Max King, Kysaiah Pickett, Mitch Georgiades and Luke Jackson.
It’s been such an unusual season, but being able to watch some exciting young players in a condensed season has been an exciting side piece. After 14 rounds it’s a hard selection on who might be awarded the Rising Star at the end of the year.
Which camp do you sit in? Does Rankine win it off the back of the excitement he has shown and the glimpses of elite skills? Does Serong take the mantle as an up-and-coming inside midfielder? Perhaps Anderson is voted in due to playing every game that demonstrates his endurance, consistency and ability to front up week after week and contribute to the rise of the Suns.