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Rising Star adds to Eagles' embarrassment of riches

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ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 26:Tom Barrass of the Eagles marks in front of team mate Jonathan Giles, Josh Jenkins and Mitch McGovern of the Crows during the 2016 AFL Round 23 match between the Adelaide Crows and the West Coast Eagles at Adelaide Oval on August 26, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by AFL Media)
Tom Barrass' intercept marking was a highlight of his effort against the Eagles
I felt like I got it working on the weekend, which was good
Tom Barrass

THERE was some stiff competition for the final NAB AFL Rising Star nomination of the season.

Melbourne coach Paul Roos had campaigned strongly for Jayden Hunt, whom he believed had been in the top six young players in the competition this season; Richmond's Oleg Markov was thereabouts; and the Brisbane Lions' Rhys Mathieson's aggressive style had won admirers.

By Friday night, following West Coast's upset 29-point win over Adelaide, the debate was all but settled as Tom Barrass' name began trending on Twitter in Perth. 

The Eagles defender inked his name into the 2016 annals after playing the best game of his short career against the Crows. The 20-year-old took a career-high six intercept marks to go with 17 disposals at 94.1 per cent efficiency against the highest-powered offence in the AFL.

West Coast's win all but put a line through Adelaide's top-four hopes and the Crows' lot was confirmed when Hawthorn defeated Collingwood by one-point at the MCG on Sunday.

"I knew it was a high-stakes game but I tried to keep my preparation as normal as possible," Barrass told AFL.com.au.

"I'm still trying to wrap my head around my routine when I'm away so I felt like I got it working on the weekend, which was good."

Playing ahead of experienced West Coast defenders Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown, Barrass has quickly established himself as the Eagles' predominant key backman alongside Jeremy McGovern.

Barrass, pick No.43 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft, has worked closely with backline coach Adrian Hickmott and his mentor, former Eagle Mark Nicoski who have both taught the young defender his role in the fabled 'Weagles Web'.

"It (the game style) probably takes a few pre-seasons to wrap your head around. But it does suit the way I like to play," Barrass said.

"I've worked really closely with 'Nico' and he's been a big influence on my life, and not just as a footballer, and he's shown me the ropes around being an AFL footballer and on top of that the game style."

Barrass, who has now played nine games this season to take his overall tally to 12, counts Mackenzie as another important influence in his rise.

"He's an absolute legend, 'Ezy' (Mackenzie). Even though he's struggling with a bit of form, he's been really good in helping me and all the young backs," Barrass said.

"He's got so many assets, he's a really good clubman and he helps us learn." 

The young defender, who hails from the Perth suburb of Scarborough, looms as an important piece of the Eagles' defensive puzzle.

West Coast faces the Western Bulldogs in a do-or-die elimination final in Perth on Thursday, September 8 and Barrass is relishing the opportunity.

"There was a really good feel around the club last year and what we did, even though we couldn't quite get it done," Barrass said. 

"I'm really privileged and excited to have the opportunity to play in a final, so I can't wait."