THE DUST has barely settled on this year's NAB AFL Rising Star class, with Essendon's No.1 pick Andy McGrath a surprisingly comfortable winner over Hawk Ryan Burton on Friday.

There will be more 2018 contenders to come in this year's NAB AFL Draft in November, but Brisbane Lions defender Alex Witherden is already the man to beat.

Witherden, who turns 19 on September 10, retains eligibility for next year, because of his age and the fact he played only nine games this season.

Read: Burto finishes second in Rising Star

Don't be surprised if Fremantle ruckman Sean Darcy, Carlton forward Harry McKay, Essendon's Aaron Francis, Giants midfielder Will Setterfield, Melbourne's Sam Weideman, Gold Coaster Will Brodie and Dogs backman Lewis Young are also in the running for next year's edition.

Players must be under the age of 21 on January 1, 2018 and have played no more than 10 AFL matches. The following list is of current players who have not been delisted and remain eligible for the Rising Star award next season. 

Ben Davis (yet to debut)
Tom Doedee (yet to debut)
Jordan Gallucci (one game)
Elliott Himmelberg (yet to debut)
Ben Jarman (yet to debut)
Myles Poholke (yet to debut)
Matthew Signorello (yet to debut)

One to watch in 2018: Perhaps only the Crows' backline depth prevented basketball convert Tom Doedee making his AFL debut in 2017. Showed great promise in the SANFL and will be pushing hard next season. 

Jacob Allison (five games)
Cedric Cox (eight games)
Mitchell Hinge (yet to debut)
Corey Lyons (yet to debut)
Sam Skinner (one game)
Reuben William (three games)
Alex Witherden (nine games)

One to watch in 2018: Plenty to choose from, but Brendon Goddard clone Alex Witherden took to AFL football like a duck to water. Complications from a broken leg suffered last year delayed his AFL debut, but averaged 23.6 disposals in a defensive role. 


Jesse Glass-McCasker (yet to debut)
Patrick Kerr (yet to debut)
Kym LeBois (yet to debut)
Harrison Macreadie (eight games)
Harry McKay (two games)
Cameron Polson (one game)

One to watch in 2018: The Blues' forward line has its critics, but second-year tall Harry McKay has the ability to stop that chatter. The twin brother of North Melbourne's Ben is a smooth mover for his height and an excellent aerialist. 

Callum Brown (five games)
Josh Daicos (two games)
Kayle Kirby (one game)
Max Lynch (yet to debut)
Liam Mackie (yet to debut)
Mitch McCarthy (yet to debut)
Sam McLarty (yet to debut)
Brayden Sier (yet to debut)

One to watch in 2018: Kayle Kirby was a menace up forward in the VFL before making his AFL debut in Round 23. Needs to streamline his body in the off-season, but has all the attributes to be a difference-maker in the AFL. 

Josh Begley (two games)
Dylan Clarke (yet to debut)
Sam Draper (yet to debut)
Aaron Francis (five games)
Kobe Mutch (yet to debut)
Mason Redman (three games)
Jordan Ridley (yet to debut)

One to watch in 2018: We should finally get an extended AFL look at Aaron Francis in 2018. Capable of playing key position at both ends – although he has settled in defence – and boasts sure hands and composure. 

Aaron Francis will be entering this third AFL season in 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

Harley Balic (four games)
Brennan Cox (10 games)
Sean Darcy (eight games)
Taylin Duman (yet to debut)
Luke Strnadica (yet to debut)

One to watch in 2018: Suspension robbed Sean Darcy the chance to score a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in Round 23, but the teenage ruckman was hugely impressive in Aaron Sandilands' absence. The Dockers' ruck future is secure. 

Ryan Gardner (yet to debut)
Zach Guthrie (seven games)*
Matthew Hayball (yet to debut)
Jack Henry (yet to debut)
Jamaine Jones (yet to debut)
Quinton Narkle (yet to debut)
Mark O’Connor (two games)
Esava Ratugolea (yet to debut)
Sam Simpson (five games)

One to watch in 2018: The other Guthrie on the Cats' list, Zach, belied his lack of kilograms to do some nice things despite some teething problems in a strong line-up. Can only improve with another pre-season under his belt. 

Will Brodie (three games)
Brad Scheer (four games)
Josh Schoenfeld (eight games)
Jack Scrimshaw (four games)
Max Spencer (five games)

One to watch in 2018: Will Brodie had some growing pains in his first year on an AFL list, but is a natural ball-winner who should be ready to go from Round 1 next season after a taste in 2017. 

Isaac Cumming (yet to debut)
Matthew Flynn (yet to debut)
Harry Perryman (eight games)*
Will Setterfield (two games)
Zach Sproule (yet to debut)
Lachie Tiziani (yet to debut)

One to watch in 2018: Will Setterfield was a top-five pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft, but an ankle injury spoiled his maiden season. At 190cm, he will eventually add another point of difference to the Giants' midfield. 

Tall midfielder Will Setterfield showed promise in his first season. Picture: AFL Photos

James Cousins (three games)
Conor Glass (six games)
Oliver Hanrahan (yet to debut)
Mitchell Lewis (yet to debut)
Kieran Lovell (two games)
Harry Morrison (one game)
Conor Nash (yet to debut)
Kade Stewart (seven games)

One to watch in 2018: Kieran Lovell has had a wretched injury run across his first two seasons, but draws comparisons to ex-Hawk Sam Mitchell and just needs to get his body right to make an impact. 

Lachlan Filipovic (yet to debut)
Liam Hulett (yet to debut)
Dion Johnstone (yet to debut)
Sam Weideman (10 games)

One to watch in 2018: Sam Weideman, a top-10 pick in 2015, will be eligible for the NAB AFL Rising Star award in his third season and might turn the impressive glimpses into much more next year. 

Oscar Junker (yet to debut)
Nick Larkey (two games)
Ben McKay (one game)
Corey Wagner (eight games)
Declan Watson (yet to debut)
Josh Williams (two games)
Cameron Zurhaar (four games)

One to watch in 2018: Josh Williams is light, but boasts class and speed – qualities the Roos desperately need. A big pre-season might transform him into a senior regular in his second season. 

Joe Atley (three games)
Riley Bonner (three games)
Willem Drew (yet to debut)
Cameron Hewett (yet to debut)
Aidyn Johnson (five games)
Peter Ladhams (yet to debut)
Todd Marshall (two games)
Will Snelling (one game)

One to watch in 2018: Key-position players usually take time, but Todd Marshall is a beauty. Booted eight goals in two weeks at SANFL standard to earn a Round 22 AFL debut and hasn't looked out of place. 

Shai Bolton (six games)
Mabior Chol (one game)
Ryan Garthwaite (yet to debut)
Jack Graham (two games)
Tyson Stengle (two games)

One to watch in 2018: First-year forward Shai Bolton, another from the Ralph Carr management stable, looked a legitimate star in the making this season and will be better for the run. 

Electric small forward Shai Bolton looked a star in the making this season. Picture: AFL Photos

Josh Battle (one game)
Darragh Joyce (yet to debut)
Ben Long (four games)
Nick O'Learney (yet to debut)
Ed Phillips (yet to debut)
Bailey Rice (yet to debut)
Brandon White (four games)

One to watch in 2018: Ben Long had to work hard to earn his AFL shot and the Darwin-raised utility, a wonderful reader of the play, proved he was capable at the level in limited appearances. 


Jordan Dawson (one game)
Sam Fisher (yet to debut)
Oliver Florent (nine games)*
Tyrone Leonardis (yet to debut)
Jack Maibaum (yet to debut)
Sam Murray (yet to debut)
Toby Pink (yet to debut)
Ben Ronke (yet to debut)

One to watch in 2018: Oliver Florent has already racked up nine matches in his first season at AFL level and probably won't feature in the finals, but is a big piece of the Swans' future. 

Matthew Allen (yet to debut)
Tarir Bayok (yet to debut)
Tom Cole (six games)
Kurt Mutimer (four games)
Luke Partington (five games)
Josh Rotham (yet to debut)
Jordan Snadden (yet to debut)
Daniel Venables (yet to debut)
Jake Waterman (yet to debut)

One to watch in 2018: A toe injury ruined midfielder Daniel Venables' debut season, but the No.13 pick in last year's NAB AFL Draft is so highly rated the Eagles re-signed him until 2020. 

Kieran Collins (one game)
Tim English (two games)
Fergus Greene (yet to debut)
Patrick Lipinski (one game)
Brad Lynch (yet to debut)
Nathan Mullenger-McHugh (yet to debut)
Tristan Tweedie (yet to debut)
Lewis Young (seven games)

One to watch in 2018: It has to be Lewis Young. Showed enough in his first two matches – although he did trail off – to suggest he could be the Dogs' long-term answer in defence.