Some recent headlines got me curious about the state of the AFL Rising Star award. I had a bit of trouble understanding the eligibility, the voting process, and who the experts are that pick the Rising Star of the season. So I did a bit of research, and while it doesn’t look like I’ll ever get a chance to vote on or to be the Rising Star, I put this guide together for anyone curious about how to become the AFL Rising Star of the season.
The AFL Rising Star award is intended to recongise the best young player of the season. There are 3 steps to being awarded the annual AFL Rising Star award:
- Be under 21 and have played fewer than 10 games
- Get nominated by the panel of experts who pick the rising star
- Win the panel’s vote at the end of the season
A nominee is put forward by the panel of experts for each of the home-and-away rounds. Each of the experts on the panel awards a series of votes to their top 5 nominees, and the player with the most votes wins. The panel typically consists of 10-12 former players, AFL officials, and in some instances media commentators.
I’ve also included in this guide the process for the AFLW Rising Star award. While quite similar, there are some subtle differences in the nomination process (2 for AFLW compared with 1 for AFL), and the panel composition (greater variety on the AFLW Rising Star panel).
Be under 21 and have played fewer than 10 games
As the AFL Rising Star award is intended to recognise the best young player of that season, eligibility criteria are focused on the youth and inexperience of the player.
To select the best young player of the season, the eligibility criteria to be nominated for the Rising Star award are:
- Be less than 21 years of age on January 1st of the year that season is played in;
- Have played less than 10 AFL matches prior to the start of the season;
- Not be disqualified by way of tribunal ruling for suspension.
An eligible player is nominated by the panel of experts each round to be in the running for the Rising Star award.
Get nominated by a panel of experts
Each week during the home-and-away season, the panel of experts nominates one player from that round to be added to the list of eligible candidates for the Rising Star award.
I found the panel of experts changes year to year but usually consists of:
- The AFL CEO,
- AFL Football Operations Head
- AFL National Talent Manager
- Retired players
There seem to be normally 10-12 experts on the panel with each expert receiving the same number of votes.
A nominee can be disqualified at any time during the season if they are suspended by a tribunal. I’ve found that it must be a suspension, even if for one match; any other tribunal reprimand (such as a fine) does not impact eligibility for the Rising Star award.
Win the vote at the end of the season
Each expert on the voting panel awards a series of votes to who they believe the top 5 players are from the nominee pool. The nominee they feel deserves to win the most is allocated 5 votes, the next best player 4 votes and so-on for the remaining. Each expert goes through this process.
I’ve included a sample of how this looks below based on the 2019 nominees:
|Sam Walsh||5 votes|
|Connor Rozee||4 votes|
|Sydney Stack||3 votes|
|Bailey Smith||2 votes|
|Nick Blakey||1 vote|
|Other players||0 votes|
The total votes are counted and the player with the greatest total is awarded as that seasons Rising Star.
Rising Star for the AFLW
The AFLW competition also awards a player each season with the Rising Star award. Eligibility, nomination, and voting are similar to the AFL men’s competition, though with some minor differences in the number of nominees and the background of experts on the panel.
Eligibility criteria for the AFLW rising star award are:
- Be under 21 at the start of the year of that season;
- Have played less than 10 games at the start of the season; and
- Not be disqualified.
These are the same criteria as the men’s competition. I also found the voting process to be the same with each expert awarding votes to their top 5 nominees of the season.
The main difference I found between the AFLW and AFL Rising Star awards is that the women’s competition allows two nominees per round, whereas the men’s competition only has one.
I also found the panel composition tends to be different. The AFLW panel seems to consist of:
- An AFL official
- An AFLPA representative
- Players from the AFL
- Media commentators
This seems a bit different from the AFL men’s Rising Star panel with more variety in the backgrounds of the panel members.
The objective of the Rising Star award is to recognise the best young player of the season. This is a prestigious award and comes with prizes and recognition for the player that worked hard all season to win it.
I found the voting process to be a bit tough to understand. As the experts on the panel have so many votes to allocate, it allows them to recognise a broad range of players rather than simply having to pick the absolute best. If the second-best player was only just behind the first-best, this voting style gives them a way to be recognised too.
I also feel that by allowing each expert to pick their top 5 players, there is greater recognition of players that performed well even though they didn’t win the medal. This is helped by the AFL making public the results of the vote.
I also found that the AFL Rising Star award has stricter criteria than the AFL Coaches Association Best Young Player award – it being an alternative way great performing young players are recognised.
I’m only a fan, that means I’ve never had the chance to vote on an expert’s panel before. To put this guide together, I used a number of references about how the voting works and what sort of people are involved. If you’re interested in further reading, check out my references here:
- The AFL’s explanation of the Rising Star
- The Swans have a great history of top Rising Stars on their site
- The AFLW Rising Star site
- News article containing details of panel members
- News article containing details of the AFLW panel members