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Talia makes Rising Star a family affair

Determined Dog a Rising Star Bulldog Michael Talia is the round 15 NAB AFL Rising Star
Michael Talia of the Bulldogs in action during the 2013 AFL Round 14 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs at the MCG, Melbourne on June 29, 2013. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Michael Talia is this week's NAB AFL Rising Star nominee

DALE MORRIS has been a pillar of the Western Bulldogs backline for nearly a decade, a player widely respected for making the most of his ability. 

Someone who has grown up watching and admiring Morris is young teammate and round 15 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee Michael Talia. 

Like the 2008 All Australian, Talia isn't blessed with the purest of kicking actions but makes up for it with an unrelenting desire to beat an opponent. 

"When Dale was injured last year we'd sit together at games and he'd run me through certain defensive plays," Talia told AFL.com.au. 

"And when we're out on the ground he's giving me advice, so he's been the biggest influence on my career." 

The master and the apprentice repelled many a forward thrust during the Bulldogs thrilling victory over Greater Western Sydney on Saturday. 

Talia delivered the most impressive performance of his nine-game career, collecting a team-high 32 possessions - most importantly at an efficiency rate of 78 per cent. 

"I've worked extremely hard on my kicking over the past 18 months, to the point where I have an extra 500 to 600 kicks a week at training," he said. 

"But my theory is to play basic defensive footy first and then hopefully I get a couple of touches off that. 

"The coach wants me to want the footy in my hands so it makes it harder for my opponent when I work off him offensively and then I can set up some play from there." 

Brendon McCartney is happy his young charge is following instructions. 

"Michael is progressing really well, and just keeps improving steadily as a genuine tall defender. He showed some good signs towards the end of last season with his appetite to compete and great capacity to run, and has continued that this year," McCartney said. 

"There are still some things to work on in his game, but we are optimistic about where he is heading as a player." 

While Morris was an inspired choice in the 2005 rookie draft, Talia is proving to be one of the steals of the 2011 national draft.

Rated as the best key defender in that talent pool, that lack of kicking polish saw him slide to pick 39, a pick the Dogs had on the trade table for former Melbourne forward Matthew Bate. 

But in a sliding doors moment, the trade fell through and the grandson of 1954 Footscray premiership ruckman Harvey Stevens fulfilled what could possibly be his footballing destiny. 

The 20-year-old's family links to the game don't end there, as he's the younger brother of Adelaide defender and 2012 NAB AFL Rising Star Daniel Talia. 

While a sibling rivalry exists, they're also doing a spot of reconnaissance for one another.   

"Daniel's been a massive help for me as I text him when I'm coming up against someone he's played on and I'm happy to help him out too."