Young Bomber Named Rookie Of The Year

Lisa Albergo's picture

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Not since 2002, when Nick Riewoldt (drafted in 2000) won the Rising Star Award*, has a Number One draft pick been the winner. Now, Essendon's prized frist selection from 2016 joins Riewoldt in the unique double. He was named and presented with the award on Sept. 1 after an impressive debut season. McGrath, 19, earned his nomination in Round Four against Adelaide. He had 28 disposals, laid four tackles and had five scoring involvements. McGrath becomes the second Essendon player to win the award, following Dyson Heppell's win in 2011.

McGrath polled 51 votes, 10 ahead of Hawthorn's Ryan Burton. Early odds-on favorite Sam Powell-Pepper came in third with 35 votes. Of all the 2017 nominees, McGrath ranked first in total handballs, second in total disposals (393) and second in total effective disposals.

McGrath said he was humbled by the award, “It’s been a huge year for everyone ... You come into the system pretty optimistic with what you can achieve, I congratulate everyone on their fantastic year. I’m honored to be a part of the Essendon football Club. I hope to be a part of it for many more years. To have a year like I had, both personally and from a team perspective has been amazing. All the boys are really keen to play finals and give the fans what they’ve wanted for so long.”

McGrath played 20 games through Round 23. He averaged 20 disposals, four marks (catching the ball) and 14 uncontested possessions. From his Round One debut, he never looked out of place at AFL level. His most impressive performance came in Round 21 when he kept Crow Eddie Betts goalless while gathering 25 possessions himself.

Coach, John Worsfold, said McGrath’s transition into senior football had been seamless and the award was a wonderful accolade and a fitting reward for a fine season, “His seamless transition ... has been remarkable, and the standard ... Andrew has been able to deliver on a consistent basis has been impressive. Andrew plays with a high level of composure and confidence, and his pressure in defence, ability to win one on one contests and drive off half back has been really important for us ... so far this season".

List and Recruiting Manager, Adrian Dodoro, said McGrath has an extremely bright future ahead of him, saying he had a bright future and how proud the club is of his excellent first season, “When we drafted Andrew we felt he was ready to play senior football, he had a good preseason and looked comfortable from the moment he played his first game. It speaks to the professionalism of Andy, but also of the Sandringham Dragons and Brighton Grammar Football programs ... he has strong leadership qualities and we look forward to watching him develop into a wonderful Essendon player for years to come.”

NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn said: “Andrew McGrath is a super talent. His ambition, sense of purpose and drive will serve him well in football and in life. The hard work he has put in to not only improve himself, but to help his team be better, is an inspiration for all young footballers ... We look forward to following Andrew’s career in the future.”

The NAB AFL Rising Star is voted by the All-Australian selection panel: Gillon McLachlan (chairman), Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Andrew Dillon, Chris Johnson, Danny Frawley, Glen Jakovich, Cameron Ling, Matthew Richardson, Warren Tredrea and Kevin Sheehan (NAB AFL Rising Star Award only).

Along with the Ron Evans Medal comes a $20,000 personal investment folio and a dedicated personal banker, courtesy of Natioal Australia Bank (NAB). As well as the Rising Star, NAB also sponsors the juniors program Auskick.

Born in Canada, he was a talented junior track and field athlete winning the Australian Under-14 high jump in 2011, the Victorian Under-15 heptathlon and national 20m (appx 65 feet) hurdles in 2012, and Victorian Under-17 400m (appx 437 yards) hurdles in 2014 before playing for the Sandringham Dragons. He was co-captain of the Vic Metro team in the 2016 Under-18 tournament and was named All-Australian.

The NAB AFL Rising Star is voted by the All-Australian selection panel: Gillon McLachlan (chairman), Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Andrew Dillon, Chris Johnson, Danny Frawley, Glen Jakovich, Cameron Ling, Matthew Richardson, Warren Tredrea and Kevin Sheehan (NAB AFL Rising Star Award only).

2017 Voting: Andrew McGrath 51, Ryan Burton 41, Sam Powell-Pepper (PA) 35, Charlie Curnow (Carlton) 27, Eric Hipwood (Brisbane) 6, Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton) 3, Tom Phillips (Collingwood) 1, Lewis Melican (Sydney) 1

^NOTE: Riewoldt was out for most of the 2001 season due to a knee injury and played only six games, thus he was still eligible for the award in 2002.

Source: Jeremy Arnold, Essendon Media Release, AFL Record Season Guide, Encyclopedia of League Footballers

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