It's been a while since we've seen a Rising Star race this close. In 2022, Nick Daicos was the clear favourite almost from the moment he was drafted. He finished with 60 out of a possible 60 votes to take home the award.
In 2023, it's a completely different story. There are four clear standouts for the award who, in their own right, could all easily be named Rising Star.
St Kilda's Mitch Owens has proven to be a genuine threat in the midfield-forward role and is one of the reasons for the Saints' early success in 2023. Fremantle's Jye Amiss has one of the toughest gigs in football playing as a key forward, yet he's lived up to the challenge in his second year.
Brisbane's number two pick Will Ashcroft has provided class through the already brilliant Lions midfield. North Melbourne's Harry Sheezel had one of the greatest starts to a rookie season ever and has maintained a high standard across half-back.
These four players seem to be the leading names in the running after 17 rounds. Find out who our team has picked for the Rising Star below with our latest Roundtable:
Francis Seal: While Ashcroft has thrived in a Brisbane midfield stacked with talent in Neale, Dunkley, McLuggage, Bailey, Lyons, Berry etc. he has benefitted from this lineup that allows him to roam free without much opposition attention. Owens has essentially been employed as Ross Lyon's 'Mr Fix It' as a 19-year-old, playing anywhere from half-forward, full-forward, ruck to midfield and having an impact wherever he plays.
He is undoubtedly more valuable to the Saints than Ashcroft is to Brisbane or Sheezel is to North Melbourne. Given his versatility and impact on the scoreboard in such a difficult role, he deserves the Rising Star nod.
How exciting is this young Saint 😇
— AFL (@AFL) April 13, 2023
Ed Carmine: Bayley Fritsch, Jesse Hogan, Darcy Fogarty, Jack Riewoldt, Todd Marshall, Charlie Dixon and Harry McKay. These are the key forwards that sit behind Jye Amiss as we turn for the straight in the Coleman race. With 30 goals from 15 starts, the 19-year-old is living up to the billing out West, giving Docker diehards and buoy to cling to in a season spent largely at sea.
And with just under 80 per cent of the teenager's scores coming in the form of goals, misses for Amiss have been few and far between. Key forwards, the old adage claims, take time to develop. But with such a bright start for a club desperate to fill a long-vacant void inside 50, the boy from Busselton is due his just rewards come awards night.
— Fremantle Dockers (@freodockers) July 1, 2023
Josh De Sa: I think Will Ashcroft is the clear winner for the Rising Star in 2023. He has delivered in every way possible. He's efficient with the ball in hand, can hit the scoreboard, and adds a genuine threat in an already elite midfield at Brisbane.
The main aspect of Ashcroft's game that is above the other nominees is his consistency. While Sheezel had an elite start to the year, it hasn't been maintained throughout (although playing for North Melbourne wouldn't be helpful). If anything, Ashcroft has constantly improved all year, what can he provide in September?
To top off his season, kicking the arguable Goal of the Year just adds to his individual accolades. His ability to be clean with his disposal and his poise through traffic just makes him the clear standout for me.
WILL ASHCROFT, YOU ARE KIDDING! A goal of the year contender!
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) April 29, 2023
Jack Jovanovski: Sheezel has been deployed as a multi-positional jackknife by the Roos – in his rookie season. Whether it's been as a calming presence across half-back, a smooth-mover on a wing, winning clearances from the source, or as a dangerous goalsneak forward of the ball, the prodigious utility has turned heads in 2023 and, despite slowing down a tad in terms of game impact (a by-product of North Melbourne's ineptitude), the 18-year-old has put forth a maiden campaign to behold.
Welcome to the club, Harry!
— AFL (@AFL) April 15, 2023
Mitch Keating: I have often leant toward Mitchito Owens as the leading name in the Rising Star race this year, but the duty that Jye Amiss has taken on at Fremantle is too good to ignore. While Owens is arguably a top-three player for a finals-contending club, Amiss is putting the Dockers' forward line on his back each week. His average of two goals per game this year has him on track to end the home and away season with 44 majors to his name. That tally, among second-year key forwards, has only been bested by Jeremy Cameron (62 goals in 2013) and Jack Darling (53 goals in 2012) in recent time.