Cunningham's stellar season
Harry Cunningham is the Round 15 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee
Swans youngster Harry Cunningham is the round 15 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee
SYDNEY Swans forward Harry Cunningham is still pinching himself after being named the round 15 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee.
By Cunningham's own admission, he's played better games this season than his 17-disposal, seven-mark performance in the Swans' 46-point win over cross-town rivals Greater Western Sydney at the SCG on Saturday night.
In round 12 he kicked four goals against Gold Coast, while he had 22 touches and laid seven tackles in the hard-fought triumph over Richmond two weeks ago.
But, now in his third season, the 20-year-old from Wagga has been rewarded for his consistency.
"It's a bit of a shock, but I'll take it," Cunningham told AFL.com.au.
"I don't think I had my best game on the weekend, but I believe I've been in reasonably good form.
"I suppose it's a bit of a reward for a bit of work over time."
Cunningham battled a medial ligament injury and then knee tendinitis problems last year, but returned late in the season and played in a preliminary final in just his sixth career game.
With a full pre-season under his belt, the former rookie has kicked on to play every match this year and he's averaging 13 possessions, four marks and nearly a goal a game.
Stats aside, it's his unselfish attitude and preparedness to work hard for his teammates that has impressed the Swans and, it seems, the Rising Star judges.
"Everything I've been doing has been valued pretty highly in the club which is the most important thing," Cunningham said.
"Again on the weekend I did a lot of things that the team values, so that was a positive out of it.
"Whether it's spreading to create space for someone else, working hard, or the pressure acts.
"Just the work rate that I've had consistently for a while now, it might not pay out on the stats sheet but it opens up for everyone else in the team."
The Swans have won 10 straight games – their longest streak since 1935 – after starting the season 1-3, but Cunningham isn't about to get carried away.
"We're going all right, we're just playing the type of footy we're known to do and we like to play," he said.
"Because we're playing well it makes individuals play well and that's what's happened to me."
Cunningham becomes the first Swan to be nominated for the award since Tom Mitchell in round 11 last year.
Junior club – Turvey Park
TAC club – NSW ACT Rams