Pair vie for AFL Rising Star award - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Pair vie for AFL Rising Star award

Roger Vaughan 06/09/2011 06:29:28 PM Comments (0)

One has been an AFL shooting star, the other has endured a longer, injury-delayed road to prominence.

The AFL Rising Star award voting is expected to come down to Essendon half-back Dyson Heppell and West Coast midfielder Luke Shuey after their standout seasons.

This should be one of the tightest counts for the Ron Evans Medal since the Rising Star started in 1993.

The scene was set from the start of the season - Heppell, 19, was the round-oneRising Star nominee this season and Shuey, 21, was named a week later.

While Essendon recruited Heppell with pick eight in last year's national draft, the Eagles used their priority pick at No.18 in the 2008 draft to secure Shuey.

Heppell's stunning debut season has led to conjecture that he might have the rare honour of winning the club best and fairest award as a first-year player.

It has also led to talk about how Heppell was still available at pick eight in the draft.

Shuey remained eligible for this year's award because he was under 21 at January 1 and had played less than 10 senior games before this season.

After six games last year, Shuey has played 22 games this season as the Eagles have shot up the ladder to finish fourth.

He has become a key member of the Eagles' midfield.

West Coast coach John Worsfold said Shuey deserved to still be eligible, despite being on their senior list for three years.

"You've got a list of players to say out of these guys who's performed best this year," Worsfold said.

"That's what we judge it on, not necessarily on is one younger, one older.

"Certain players are eligible to win it, (so) I think they should back themselves and say who's had the best year."

Heppell's dream came true last November when the Bombers used their first draft pick to recruit him.

He and his family were staying in a caravan park near the Gold Coast, last year's draft venue, when Bombers coach James Hird famously walked in for a chat.

That happened a day before the draft and it was the first time the club had made contact with Heppell.

Growing up, Heppell idolised Hird as a player.

Heppell has mainly played across half-back this year and his ball use and courage have been outstanding.

Once Heppell develops more, the Bombers will be keen to make him one of their top midfielders.

One of the Bombers' biggest problems in the last few seasons has been their lack of top-quality onballers, apart from captain Jobe Watson.

Shuey's teammates Andrew Gaff and Jack Darling have also enjoyed strong seasons as Rising Star nominees, while Sam Reid well on the way to become Sydney's main key forward.

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