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Saint Blake Acres proves worth to earn Rising Star nod

Acres of space to work the angle Blake Acres roves the ruck superbly and dribbles through a major
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Blake Acres of the Saints handballs during the 2016 AFL Round 06 match between the Melbourne Demons and the St Kilda Saints at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on April 30, 2016. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/AFL Media)
Blake Acres picked up the round six NAB AFL Rising Star nomination
It was frustrating getting dropped after just the one game but 'Richo' knows what he's doing
Blake Acres

• Vote for 2016's winner at the NAB AFL Rising Star hub

ALAN Richardson pulled no punches when he spoke with young St Kilda midfielder Blake Acres after he was omitted from the team twice in the first month of the season. 

The coach's hardline stance looks to have paid off with the 20-year-old nominated for the NAB AFL Rising Star award on the back of a starring role through the midfield in the Saints' 39-point victory against Melbourne.

Acres gathered a career-high 28 disposals, five tackles and kicked two goals in the club's big win over the Demons, also collecting six votes in the AFL Coaches' Association Award.

Richardson laid down the law to the young Saint after he found himself out of the team, following the club's loss to Port Adelaide in round one, insisting he improve his consistency and ability to win one-on-one contests.

"It was frustrating getting dropped after just the one game but 'Richo' knows what he's doing," Acres told AFL.com.au.

"He gave me some clear points to work on and I knuckled down, I did the work he told me I needed to do and it worked on the weekend for me."

Richardson praised Acres, who hails from Edgewater Woodvale JFC in Western Australia, for his commitment in bolstering those specific parts of his game.

"More than any other player he's committed to making sure that he works on his game and works on his craft," Richardson said after the win over Melbourne.

"He's been a really good example. It doesn't surprise me that he's ended up performing strongly. There's no secrets in footy. If you work hard, you end up getting rewards."

Acres' breakout performance, which he counts as his best at AFL level, comes after a frustrating run with injury to begin his career.

An ankle injury in his debut season in 2014 curtailed his development, while a lingering quad complaint and a hand issue has also held him back in his 13 matches to date.

The west Australian, who is contracted until the end of the 2018 season, says he is settled at the Saints.

"I signed a long-term contract in my first year with St Kilda," Acres said.

"When I first got here, I felt like I was at home.

"I can't see myself living in Perth again. I'm loving Melbourne."

Richardson has high hopes for Acres.

"He's going to be a very, very good player for us," Richardson said.

Want more?

• Find 2016's nominees and vote for the winner at the NAB AFL Rising Star hub

• How does the Rising Star Award work and who is eligible?