Main content

Houston, we have a Rising Star nominee

Greene fined, Dog banned, Gus' boost Footy Feed with Matt Thompson and Nathan Schmook
Dan Houston celebrates a goal with skipper Travis Boak - AFL,Rising Star,Dan Houston,Port Adelaide Power
Dan Houston celebrates a goal with skipper Travis Boak

AN 18-YEAR-OLD Dan Houston's mind began wandering beyond football during the 2015 NAB AFL Draft period.

He felt like it had to.

At least five AFL clubs showed interest in Houston – hence his invitation to the Draft Combine – but the national draft came and went without his name being called out. The subsequent rookie draft was also 45 picks deep before he finally found a home at Port Adelaide.

There was plenty of time in between for thinking. What would I do if I'm not an AFL footballer? Did I make the right call to shut the season down and have hip surgery? Should I have tried to play more positions? 

"Going to national combine, I thought I was a good chance," Houston told AFL.com.au.

"To have five clubs interested and lots of interviews, then to slip through to pick 45 in the rookie draft – it was a very scary moment. You second guess whether you've done enough during the year and what you're going to do outside of footy if you don’t make it.

"Those thoughts definitely go through your head." 

Houston, now 20 and with 14 AFL games under his belt, can look back at those nervous times with a satisfied smile. He is also this week's NAB AFL Rising Star nominee, thanks to a consistent campaign capped by 21 neat disposals and his first AFL goal – a booming 50-plus-metre effort – against Collingwood on Sunday.

Among Houston's opponents were Darcy Moore, Jordan De Goey and Tom Phillips, who he played in a TAC Cup premiership with in 2014. He missed out on playing in another one a year later, because of his recovery from hip surgery.

The goal was significant, given the former Oakleigh Chargers co-captain entered the AFL system as a forward, only to find his feet as a defender by chance. 

The ripple-down effect of injuries to Jack Hombsch and Tom Jonas saw coaches throw Houston into the backline – and he flourished. So much so that Port Adelaide elevated him to the primary list on 2017 season eve and he made his AFL debut in round one. 

Everything was going swimmingly until his stretch of senior games ended at seven, when he was dropped and missed out on the following week's historic match in China. 

It was not until round 13 that Houston, who has worked closely with Power veteran Matthew Broadbent, was seen in the AFL again. 

 

"Missing any game of AFL footy and getting dropped isn’t a fun time," he said.

"But, in saying that, I did have the three JLT (Community Series) games and first seven games (in the home and away season), so it was probably good to have a rest. 

"It makes you realise how great the opportunity is playing AFL, because when you're back in SANFL, you really have to work your arse off to get back into the team and it shows you how hard it can be." 

Houston's strong kicking skills are proving a useful weapon coming out of defence, with his efficiency of 77.6 per cent ranking 24th out of the AFL's top 250 kickgetters. 

His positional transformation has not surprised his former Chargers talent manager Craig Notman, who utilised him across half-back successfully in the 2015 TAC Cup pre-season. 

"Dan played predominantly as a forward for us, but in conversations I had with Anthony Parkin, one of the recruiters at Port, we spoke about how he read the ball really well," Notman said. 

"We always knew he could play down there and he acquitted himself well (when he did), as he did in the midfield. We like our kids to be multi-dimensional, and Dan is very footy smart. We're really proud of his progress."

NAB AFL Rising Star hub: news, nominees and past winners

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