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Who deserves the Rising Star?

afl.com.au  August 30, 2017 9:45 AM

AFL 2017 Round 14 - Adelaide v Hawthorn

Burton's season highlight came in Round 14, when he kept Adelaide skipper Taylor Walker to 12 touches, while collecting 21 and booting two goals himself.

HAWTHORN'S seven-year finals run came to a crashing halt in 2017, but the AFL.com.au team believes the Hawks have unearthed the newest NAB AFL Rising Star. 

Second-year defender Ryan Burton, the hotshot draft pick once told he may never play again after a sickening leg break in 2014, came out on top in our reporters' poll.

Seventeen reporters put their judges' hats on, with five votes indicating the top choice and so on. Eleven awarded maximum votes to Burton, whose ability to make an impact in a Hawthorn team in transition got him across the line. 

Essendon's 2016 No.1 pick Andrew McGrath and Port Adelaide midfielder Sam Powell-Pepper also had their admirers. They were the only three players to receive a vote from every journalist, with Carlton forward Charlie Curnow missing out on just one card. 

Ryan Burton: 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 5, 4, 4 (77 votes)
Andrew McGrath: 5, 4, 4, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 2, 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 3, 5, 5 (67)
Sam Powell-Pepper: 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 2, 3, 4, 3, 4, 4, 3, 3 (54)
Charlie Curnow: 2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 4, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 (34)
Eric Hipwood: 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 1, 1, 1 (13)
Tom Phillips: 1, 1, 1 (3)
Caleb Marchbank: 2 (2)
Sam Petrevski-Seton: 1, 1 (2)
Dan Butler: 1 (1)
Blake Hardwick: 1 (1)
Alex Witherden: 1 (1)

Read: Blake Hardwick analyses his own season

Nick Bowen

5. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
4. Ryan Burton (Haw)
3. Eric Hipwood (BL)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)

Why he should win: McGrath has taken on star forwards such as Eddie Betts and Cyril Rioli and more than held his own. Composed, tough, quick and skillful, he has settled into Essendon's defence like a 10-year veteran. 

Ashley Browne

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
3. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
2. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
1. Eric Hipwood (BL)

Why he should win: Burton was the best and most consistent defender all year for the season in a team that won 10 and a half games. Not sure he will win, though. The Essendon mafia in the media have been lobbying hard for McGrath, who had a fine year, but unlike Burton, needed to be 'managed' at various stages. Hope the judges remember that.

Ben Collins

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
3. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carl)

Why he should win: The second-year Hawk showed such remarkable consistency and maturity that at times he led the Hawks' defence in the absence of experienced teammates. His standout performance was in the Round 14 win over Adelaide at Adelaide Oval when he nullified Crows captain Taylor Walker and kicked two goals himself.

Adam Curley

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
3. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Dan Butler (Rich)

Why he should win: Stepped up to average 21.3 possessions in his 20 games and showed a cool head in defence for the Hawks with experienced heads Grant Birchall, Ben Stratton, Josh Gibson and James Frawley all missing plenty of footy.

Ryan Davidson

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
3. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Eric Hipwood (BL)

Why he should win: The 2015 draftee was always going to be a good player; he just needed time to recover from a badly broken leg sustained as a 17-year-old. The South Australian has shown poise and maturity well beyond his years, and those attributes complement a good footy brain and sound skills. Future Hawthorn skipper.

Nat Edwards

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
3. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Eric Hipworth (BL)

Why he should win: Burton has been a revelation for the Hawks in defence this season. The 20-year-old has great poise and is composed under pressure. He is also an excellent kick, which is no surprise given he sits 18th in the AFL for effective kicks in the defensive half. Burton's ability to read the play has also been invaluable to the Hawks in 2017 with the youngster the No.1 intercept player at the club. In his 20 games this year he was a driving force for the Hawks, springing the team into attack from defence, he had a total of 6,838 metres gained this season, the most out of any of the nominees.

Andrew McGrath gave the Dons everything they wanted from a No.1 pick. Picture: AFL Photos

Lee Gaskin

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
3. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Alex Witherden (BL) 

Why he should win: Burton went toe to toe with some of the best forwards in the competition, including shutting down Adelaide captain Taylor Walker when the Hawks upset the minor premiers.

Ben Guthrie

5. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
4. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
3. Ryan Burton (Haw)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Eric Hipwood (BL)

Why he should win: McGrath has an unflappable temperament and it has served him well in a number of important defensive roles he has played this season. The No.1 pick from last year's NAB AFL Draft was charged with a number of key defensive jobs, most notably blanketing Adelaide superstar Eddie Betts in Round 21. McGrath rarely fumbles, he makes concise decisions for the betterment of his team and doesn't let the occasion get the better of him. A 300-game player and multiple best and fairest award winner in the making.

Travis King

5. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
4. Ryan Burton (Haw)
3. Eric Hipwood (BL)
2. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
1. Charlie Curnow (Carl)

Why he should win: Very few players can come into the AFL and influence games from the word go, which is what Powell-Pepper did in his dazzling debut. The West Australian booted two booming goals, won seven clearances and had 19 touches against the Swans in Round 1, playing with brashness and confidence that hasn't left him all season, despite some quiet games of late. There are some fine nominees, as always, but the Power youngster did it all and helped Port climb back into finals. Powell-Pepper hit the scoreboard (15 goals), found the footy (averaging 17 disposals) and loved the grunt work (five tackles per game) in a wonderful first season and would be a deserving NAB AFL Rising Star winner.

Howard Kotton

5. Ryan Burton (Haw) 
4. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
3. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
2. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
1. Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carl)

Why he should win: With several premiership stars spending long periods on the sidelines, Burton stood tall in Hawthorn's defence all season. The South Australian showed a lot of maturity and was most consistent. While his performance in the Round 14 victory against the Crows was outstanding, he also put in solid efforts in defeats, notably in the second half of the loss to Carlton in Round 22 when he was switched back to the backline after starting in attack.

His teammates love him, but will the Rising Star judges feel the same way about Sam Powell-Pepper?

Marc McGowan

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
3. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carlton)
1. Eric Hipwood (BL) 

Why he should win: Powell-Pepper's late-season fadeout made it a two-horse race between defenders Burton and McGrath. They both played 20 games, but the Hawk had more disposals, metres gained, intercept possessions, score involvements, tackles, rebound 50s and inside 50s.

Dinny Navaratnam

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
3. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Eric Hipwood (BL)

Why he should win: Those two goals Burton booted to help Hawthorn overcome Adelaide on the road in Round 14 showed composure and class rare for a 20-year-old. In a desperately tight battle, Powell-Pepper suffered slightly because of some quiet form late in the season.

Jennifer Phelan

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
3. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Tom Phillips (Coll)

Why he should win: Burton's composure in Hawthorn's backline, combined with his long list of attributes – elite kicking, marking and intercepting ability – make him this year's standout. His numbers do the talking: he's averaged 21.3 disposals, 5.7 marks, nearly four rebounds and 343.1m gained (third most of any Hawk). While McGrath and Powell-Pepper will give him a run for his money, his consistency gets him home.

Peter Ryan

5. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
4. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
3. Ryan Burton (Haw)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Tom Phillips (Coll)

Why he should win: Not since Brett Deledio saluted in 2005 has a No.1 pick won the award in his first year but McGrath is the man to land the prize. He picked up Hawthorn's Luke Breust on debut and has beaten Greater Western Sydney's Toby Greene and Adelaide's Eddie Betts in his 21 games. A star in the making, the running defender is clean with the ball, takes the game on and a challenge never daunts him.

Nathan Schmook

5. Ryan Burton (Haw)
4. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
3. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Eric Hipwood (BL)

Why he should win: Star quality was on show against Adelaide in Round 14, keeping Taylor Walker quiet while pushing forward for two clutch goals in the third quarter on the Friday night stage. Consistent and composed, he has all the traits of an elite half-back already with his intercepting and elite kicking.  

Callum Twomey

5. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
4. Ryan Burton (Haw)
3. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
2. Charlie Curnow (Carl)
1. Tom Phillips (Coll)

Why he should win: McGrath has stepped up to AFL level seamlessly in his debut season, holding down a spot in Essendon's back half and quickly becoming one of its most reliable options there. His shutdown job on Eddie Betts in Round 21, when he kept the star Adelaide small forward goalless, was excellent, and his calm approach under pressure all year has stood out.

Michael Whiting

5. Andrew McGrath (Ess)
4. Ryan Burton (Haw)
3. Sam Powell-Pepper (PA)
2. Caleb Marchbank (Carl)
1. Blake Hardwick (Haw)

Why he should win: In a close-run race, it's hard to go past the No.1 pick. McGrath not only fitted into Essendon's team like a seasoned campaigner, he was also a driving force behind their surge back into the top eight. He got the mix of offence (nearly 20 disposals a game) and defence just right, being able to play close to his man when called upon, most notably Eddie Betts late in the year. Burton was terrific in a new-look Hawks defence and Powell-Pepper a solid contributor for the Power, but for impact and influence in a position of responsibility, I have to lean to McGrath.